There is a lot to be excited about at Vanderbilt these days. The Commodores are heading to their first Bowl in well over 20 years this season. They are also recruiting at an uncharacteristically high level. With nine three-stars already counted among its commit list, Vanderbilt added another big one on Monday night.
Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy offensive tackle Wesley Johnson hosted three Vanderbilt coaches on an in-home visit Monday night and during the visit, Johnson gave them some good news.
"I just committed (to Vanderbilt)," Johnson said on Monday night. "We started talking about everything and having a good team in the future."
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Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound offensive tackle prospect was a Mr. Football finalist in Tennessee's Division II large school classification. He was also one of the top prospects on the Vanderbilt recruiting board.
"Coach Caldwell, Coach Johnson and Coach Cain were there," he said. "When they got there I guess we just hung out for 30 minutes just getting to know each other better. Then at dinner I told them and we talked about the different schools I'll enroll in and when I can get over there and start lifting and stuff."
Vanderbilt has long been a leader for Johnson but with offers from Auburn, Georgia Tech, Duke and others, the three-star has explored his options. With his season behind him, Johnson finally decided that he didn't need to wait any longer.
"There's been a bunch of times I've been really close and I guess I just said go ahead because I've always held off just to do one last look to make sure," he said. "Auburn was the only other school that I was seriously looking at and when all that stuff happened with Tuberville I just went ahead and did it."
Though the coaching change at Auburn didn't help the Tigers' chances with Johnson, he likely would have been a Commodore anyway.
"(The coaching change) didn't really play a factor," he said. "I didn't really care who they hired. I got dead set on going to Vandy."
Johnson's leadership and talent on the field are hard to ignore and have been a big reason for his team's success over the last two seasons. Despite that talent, where Johnson really sets himself apart is his work ethic.
"We lift as a team on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and on Wednesday after practice we would have to almost physically make him leave the weight room," said MBA head coach Daniel McGugin." it was always the same thing: getting extra cleans or extra something in. He wasn't getting extra curls. He was doing things to make himself a more explosive athlete."
As a lineman that would work on the sled until he puked after mid-season practices, Johnson has earned high praise from his head coach.
"He's the best offensive lineman we've ever had at MBA, period," McGugin said plainly.
Perhaps Johnson's one weakness is his weight, at just over 250 pounds. If he were pushing 300 pounds, Johnson would likely be one of the most highly recruited offensive linemen in the region but Vanderbilt has a history of turning similar bodies into dominant players, most notably recent all-SEC tackle and NFL draftee Chris Williams.
"They've tried to sell that," Johnson said of Williams. "They told me I have the same body type and the same footwork and attitude. They really used him as an example of who I can be and I guess that example really helped."
Johnson has plans to visit Vanderbilt officially on Jan. 16 . He doesn't have any plans to make other visits.
"This is it," he said. "I'm committed so I'm not going to look at anywhere else."