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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, July 11, 2014

By Sammy Batten

ECU eyes pass blocking role for S.C. star

Victor Johnson's soft commitment leaves door open for courting by other schools


By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

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As a taller kid growing up in North Augusta, SC, Victor Johnson naturally gravitated toward basketball. But Johnson's involvement in that sport eventually led him to the football field where the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder has developed into major-college caliber player in a short time.

The third-year varsity veteran at North Augusta High School played his first season on the offensive line as a junior and showed such potential that schools like Appalachian State, Furman and James Madison came through with early scholarship offers. But it was the East Carolina Pirates that extended the first scholarship offer in February, and eventually gained his verbal commitment June 21 while Johnson was on campus for an unofficial visit.

"It was definitely the coaching staff,'' Johnson said when asked about his reasons for choosing ECU. "I've developed a good relationship being around them and I can tell they're good people.''

Johnson was especially impressed with his chief recruiters, offensive line coach Brandon Jones and recruiting coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick. "They are really down to Earth guys who made me feel at home,'' Johnson added.

In Johnson, the Pirates are getting one of the top prospects in the Class of 2015 from South Carolina. rates him the No. 39 prospect in the Palmetto State, while Athlete's Vault has him at No. 44. Jim Baxter of and recruiting columnist for The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, recently had Johnson rated the fifth-best blocking prospect in the state.

Those rankings followed a junior season in which Johnson played a major role for a state playoff North Augusta squad that scored 40 points in 10 of 14 games. The performance earned Johnson second-team All-South Carolina Area honors from the Augusta Chronicle and All-Region status.

That's not too shabby for a guy who only started playing competitive football in middle school.

Prior to that time, Johnson was focused on basketball and was a serious competitor in the Amateur Athletic Union ranks. It was late one summer while playing with his AAU squad that several teammates mentioned playing middle school football.

"They were having to leave AAU to start conditioning for football at the middle school,'' Johnson said. "I wanted to join in, so I went along with them. I really enjoyed it and that's how I got started.

"I kind of developed slowly because they moved me around to so many positions in middle school. First I was a receiver and a safety, then they moved me to tight end. By my eighth-grade year I was more of a tight end and defensive end.''

The coaches at North Augusta High clearly recognized Johnson's potential because they moved the then-defensive end up to the varsity for the playoffs at the end of his freshman season. A year later Johnson was part of a defensive end rotation for a team that went 9-4 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.

But it wasn't until Johnson's junior season that the North Augusta staff suggested a move to the offensive line.

"The coaches told me during the winter, 'Hey, maybe we'll move you to the offensive line,''' Johnson said. "I actually thought it was a joke. As we got closer to spring practice, they said, 'We're going to move you to the offensive line.' I said, 'OK.' I really enjoy football, so it was no problem to me. I got used to it and was really good at it, so they kept me there.''

Johnson started at right offensive tackle last season, but will move to left tackle as a senior under the direction of a new head coach in Brian Thomas.

Thomas returned to his home state in March after an extremely successful four-year stint at Northern Guilford High School in Greensboro, NC. Northern won three consecutive state 3-AA championships with Thomas serving as defensive coordinator, then went 12-3 and reached the state finals a fourth straight year in Thomas’s only season as head coach.

During Thomas’s tenure at Northern, the Nighthawks produced a number of major college players like California wide receiver Maurice Harris, North Carolina running back T.J. Logan and East Carolina cornerback Rocco Scarfone.

Thomas instantly recognized Johnson as a player with similar elite talent.

“I walked into the weightlifting class for first period and Victor was one of the first kids I saw,’’ Thomas said. “It was eye opening and pretty exciting to know he’d be one of my returning players, and not just because of football. Victor is a great kid. He’s very respectful and hard working. I told all the college coaches that he’s the type of kid when he’s told to do something, you don’t have to watch over him. He won’t quit until he’s done.’’

Because of his basketball background, Johnson is more athletic than the normal high school offensive lineman, according to Thomas.

“He runs so well,’’ Thomas said. “I timed him down on the track recently and he ran something like 50 (seconds) in the 400 (meters). He’s got good feet, long arms and he’s aggressive.’’

The Pirates have recruited Johnson to play tackle where his pass blocking skills seem to fit ECU’s system well.

“They are pretty similar to us,’’ Johnson said. They go fast, no-huddle and I really like that. I definitely think because of my athletic ability that I’ll fit well in their system.’’

Whether Johnson winds up in the ECU system, however, is still up in the air. Although he likes the Pirates and has made a verbal commitment, the latter isn’t binding.

Johnson said he still plans to check out some other potential suitors during the time between now and national signing day in February.

“I’m going to look around at some other schools,’’ Johnson said. “There aren’t any in particular I have in mind, and I haven’t talked to any other schools. But I do plan to look around some more.’’

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07/11/2014 04:08 PM