It's time for another edition of the TMI series, in which we here at Dawg Sports provide you with entirely too much information about the young men who will one day take the field for the University of Georgia football team. Today's subject of minimally creepy recruiting attention is Northgate (Coweta County) defensive tackle Deandre Johnson (known since the 7th grade as "Moose") who received his "dream offer" from Georgia three weeks ago and committed to Coach Mark Richt yesterday. More on Moose after the jump . . .
If you ask most Georgia fans what position is most critical to the Dawgs 3-4 defensive scheme they'll tell you it's either a) outside linebacker or b) nose tackle. Of course it's a bit of a trick question. All 11 spots are critical. Poor safety play can cost you 6 points in a hurry whether you're playing a 3-4, a 4-3, a 4-2-5 (what we geezers call a "base nickel") or a 9-0-2-1-0.
But the big, fast outside linebacker and huge hole-plugging nose are unique 3-4 features that stick out to football fans, and by extension fans who follow recruiting. Solid play at those two positions were the most obvious things missing from the 2010 iteration of the Georgia defense and the most obvious points of improvement on the stellar 2011 unit.
Todd Grantham has made it clear that he'll not be without options at either position if he can help it. Unfortunately the nimble, outrageously exomorphic manbeasts required to play nose in the 3-4 don't grow on trees. You have to really go out looking for them. Two years ago the Bulldog coaches found one at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and placed another there for safekeeping. Last year they found one over in Millen. Yesterday they went to Coweta County, a place that has been very good to them, and snagged a commitment from Northgate standout Deandre "Moose" Johnson of Northgate High.
Moose brings a lot to the table. A great nickname is always nice, of course. But that's not all. He didn't get offers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and Tennessee based on nicknames alone. If that were all it took then Dacula mathlete Stephen "Fire In A 7-11 Bathroom" Swenson would be eating Eli Manning's Oreos as we speak. Take a look at this video for some idea of what Johnson can do.
The most obvious attribute is size. Not so much size per se, but mass. Johnson has the huge lower body required to take on double and even triple teams as the point of the spear in Georgia's base 3-4 alignment. That just can't be taught. It's the reason a lot of guys who used to be considered merely above average offensive guard prospects are now making good money in the NFL at nose tackle.
Also notice his footwork. The nose tackle doesn't need to be able to run a 4.5 forty yard dash. But he does need to be able to take two steps forward faster than the onrushing offensive lineman. On a lot of running plays that's the difference between pushing the line of scrimmage backward (thus creating a loss of yardage) and having the line advance forward (creating 2nd and 5 rather than 2nd and 12, a very big difference indeed).
Johnson however is still very raw. He's a guy who's only been playing football for a couple of years, playing at a school that hasn't had a football team for very long, so that's to be expected. He doesn't do a great job of using his hands, which is a shame because he has pretty long arms for a 6'3, 310 pounder. Once he learns to use them to slap away blockers before he gets grabbed, he'll be a lot more effective. Moose's pad level also seems a little inconsistent. He's clearly trying to keep his eyes in the backfield (not a bad thing for a defensive lineman) but like a lot of guys in doing so his upper body becomes vertical. If he flattens his back and puts more of his signififcant weight behind his pads, Johnson could be another behemoth in the John Jenkins mold.
Fortunately, with Jonathan Taylor coming in for 2012, Chris Mayes arriving as an experienced nose in 2013, and Mike Thornton likely around in 2013 for his redshirt senior season, Johnson has time to learn the finer points before being thrown into every snap action. Not only is Johnson the seventh Bulldog commit for 2013, he's the fifth on the defensive side of the ball. Given the sheer number of personnel losses we'll see on the ball after the 2012 season, that's important. Welcome aboard, Moose!