January 3, 2011

Johnson in running for five stars

SAN ANTONIO -- There is a chance C.J. Johnson could contend for five-star status with an outstanding week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl -- especially after his dynamic showing at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game -- but he doesn't care too much.

Johnson isn't concerned about rankings. He just wants to play football -- mean, aggressive, tough football.

"I don't really pay attention to rankings," Johnson said. "I just want to go out there and play."

Johnson, a Mississippi State commit, had 17 tackles in the Alabama-Mississippi game and has emerged as a possible five-star candidate.

Visits to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and LSU will occur in January, but Johnson said his commitment is even more solid after the Bulldogs' 52-14 drubbing of Michigan in the Gator Bowl.

"It's very strong right now, stronger than it's been," Johnson said. "They just came off a big win in the bowl game, and everything is looking really strong. I'm still pretty solid right now."

One of the things that stand out most to Johnson at Mississippi State is defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Manny Diaz, one of the coaches involved in his recruitment.

"Every time I talk to coach Diaz, the defensive coordinator, he's definitely a guy you want to play for," Johnson said. "He's fired up, he's young, [and] he's full of intensity. It's just awesome."

Rated as the sixth-best inside linebacker, No. 138 nationally and fourth in the Mississippi state rankings by Rivals.com, Johnson has a good chance to vastly move up in all the categories.

There is even talk he could vie for the top spot in the state rankings, and it's not unreasonable to possibly move Johnson to five stars depending on how he performs throughout the week here at the Army Bowl.

"He has the eyes of a Mike Singletary just before contact," Rivals.com analyst Barry Every said. "He's very territorial, and he's going to keep offensive players from treading on his ground.

"He plays with that attitude. He has the size and speed to play all three linebacker positions. He's making a push for No. 1 for the top player in Mississippi with Nickolas Brassell."

If his showing is anywhere near how well he played at the Alabama-Mississippi game, then things will continue to look up for the Philadelphia, Miss., standout who finished with 200 tackles over his junior and senior seasons.

At this point, Brassell leads the Mississippi state rankings, followed by Raleigh wide receiver Donte Moncrief and Madison Central wide receiver Tobias Singleton. Brassell, also a Mississippi State commit, and Singleton, who's deciding this weekend, are at the Army Bowl, too.

Even though Johnson admits he was nervous during the practice week at the Alabama-Mississippi game, the four-star has done enough to move up. How Johnson does this week will determine how far.

"When I finally put my helmet on and got on the field, I got in that zone and I was just making plays," Johnson said.

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