football

Johnson resetting his recruitment

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EL DORADO, Kan. - Toby Johnson looks uncomfortable on his extra-large crutches.
Dressed in a blue tracksuit, the 305-pound defensive tackle used them to support his massive frame as he watched his Hutchison Community College team's regular season crash down with a 26-16 loss to rival Butler County on a cold and gusty Sunday afternoon in central Kansas.
On this day, that's not his biggest problem. The crutches and the loss are mere inconveniences. The doubt he'll need to erase from the minds of coaches figures to be a much larger issue.
See, Division-I programs look at Johnson in a different light these days. They don't see a can't-miss recruiting commodity. Not anymore. They see the crutches. They see a high-risk investment. To hear Johnson talk about it, though, is to think little has changed. Despite the bum leg, it's business as usual for one of the top junior college players in America.
"If anything, the injury has brought my more support," Johnson said. "Some schools are coming at me harder and telling me how much they want me. Everyone is showing love."
At the same time, Johnson admits some programs have cooled on him since he tore his ACL two weeks ago. Others, however, see the injury as a window -- a chance to land a high-profile player at a discount. Damaged goods. It's an outlet-mall premise.
Prior to the season-ending incident, Johnson, who holds more than 25 scholarship offers, favored a list of schools comprised of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Miami. Things on that front, of course, have changed. Balancing on one leg, he says he'll take what he can get.
"I'm not really in a position to have any favorites anymore," Johnson said. "Things are different. I was big on all those schools before I got hurt, but I'm open to everyone now."
Georgia and Nebraska have continued their recruitment of Johnson through the injury. Kansas State has come on stronger since it took place. His last unofficial visit was to K-State, a school Johnson admits he wasn't seriously considering before everything changed.
Make note: the post-injury version of Toby Johnson is living in a different world.
"I went out on that unofficial out of nowhere, but I really liked it up there when I saw it," Johnson said. "I liked it while I was down there. K-State is a place I'm going to consider for sure. I don't really have any favorites or anything, but I liked it there."
Michigan State has recently become involved in the pursuit of Johnson. Auburn has joined the party late as well. Johnson plans to visit Nebraska on Nov. 17 for the Huskers' game with Minnesota. A visit to Georgia is also being finalized.
Johnson's revised list options will have a distinctly different look than the original, but it's too soon to tell which schools' offers still stand and which ones vanished with his season. Until then, he's staying almost blindly optimistic.
"I can walk on a little bit," he said. "I think I just tore a small ligament or something. They're telling me it's an MCL tear and an ACL tear, but I don't know if that's right. They say if it is an ACL tear, I'll be out four or five months. "
Johnson seems to favor the SEC as a whole, but is putting no limitations on himself when it comes to choosing a school.
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