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July 24, 2010

Gators pull into the lead for linebacker

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Jackson is ready to commit | Notebook: Pagan is solid with the Gators | Notebook: Bellamy stands out | Blakely names a leader | FlaVarsity quick hitters | Pagan solid again? | Live Event Updates (plenty of tidbits) | UF secures second commitment of the day | James Wilder Jr. 4:00 p.m. update | Under the lights preview | Will this four-star commit on Friday?

Gainesville (Ga.) three-star prospect A.J. Johnson stood out like a sore thumb at Friday Night Lights in a linebacker group that didn't have a ton of big-time Division I prospects.

Heading into the camp the one time Tennessee commit has most often mentioned having a top three consisting of Florida, Clemson and the Volunteers.

After impressing at the camp, Johnson said afterward that Florida currently tops his list of schools.

"I've been down here a whole bunch and just have a good fit," he said after the event. "I have (Florida) on top right now."

Asked what impressed him the most, Johnson said the atmosphere and the competition.

"I came to (FNL) last year, so I had a good look at it," he said. "There's a lot of competition going out there and playing hard. It's always great to play in this stadium."

The 6-foot-3, 226-pound middle linebacker was the most physically impressive player on the field during positional drills.

While he needs to improve his lateral movement, he has very good straight line speed and can close on the point of attack very quickly.

Johnson said he wants to play middle linebacker. That's where Florida is recruiting him right now, although he certainly has the size to play at defensive end in college.

His athleticism will make him a versatile player at the college level. He's a guy that can drift back into coverage or step up to the line and put his hand down to rush the passer.

Getting to the ball-carrier with speed is certainly one of his strengths.

After Friday Night Lights, Johnson said he hoped the coaches he ends up playing for understand that.

"I love playing a 3-4, but I want a defense that the coach is pushing their players to get at the ball," he said. "A go getta defense."

Johnson's recruitment has been a wild ride so far. After initially committing to Tennessee last summer, he de-committed after head coach Lane Kiffin bolted for the job at USC.

However, the one-time Tennessee commit said that his relationship with the Volunteers is still very good.

Along with Florida, Tennessee and Clemson comprise Johnson's top three. He plans to visit all three, though he hasn't decided on when he will make his official visits yet.

After the event, he touched on his relationship with new Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.

"I've been there twice since he's been there," he said. "He's a real good coach, trying to keep his players in strict."

Asked what his plans are heading forward from Friday Night Lights, Johnson was short and to the point.

"I'm gonna go visit a couple more schools and from there just go with it," he said. "Right now, probably Florida's on top."


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