Two days after this past Signing Day, four-star 2017 guard prospect Netori Johnson backed out of his commitment to Alabama in order to "have fun with [his] recruitment" [insert salty insinuations and dollar signs here]. Within three weeks he'd visited Auburn—where his high school teammate, Antwuan Jackson, is committed—twice, giving the impression that Gus Malzahn was the heavy favorite to land Johnson next year.
But during an interview with Scout.com at last weekend's The Opening Atlanta, Johnson insisted that few other SEC schools are still very much in the running.
"I'm liking Auburn right now as a school. And Antwuan, that's my dog, I'd love to play with him again. But I do have some other schools out there like Ole Miss and Georgia and Alabama. Everybody's in the race right now."
Johnson, the No. 4 offensive guard in the country and a member of the top 150 overall in the 247 Composite, visited Oxford last year and put the Rebs in his official top 10 last month. What in particular is he digging about Ole Miss? The recent influx of elite talent brought in by O-line coach Matt Luke.
"I like Coach Luke, he's a great coach. He's fun to be around. He got the No. 1 tackle and the second overall player in 2016, Greg Little. I seen Greg Little at Auburn a couple times. [Luke] must be doing something good. He also put a lineman that might go top tackle in the NFL Draft."
Rocking a Georgia sweatshirt during the interview, Johnson also had a lot of nice things to say about the Bulldogs. Georgia, which is tied with Auburn atop Johnson's 247 Crystal Ball (Ole Miss is third), has a couple guys on staff that have already built good relationships with Johnson: new head coach Kirby Smart recruited him while at Bama and O-line coach Sam Pittman recruited him while in Fayetteville. That pair also has a commitment from Johnson's high school teammate, Justin Schaefer.
If Johnson does end up in Oxford for the 2017 season, he could potentially be a long-term replacement for Rod Taylor, who has a couple years of eligibility left. Johnson could theoretically compete with rising sophomores Javon Patterson (a former five-star who will likely earn a starting spot this season) and Jordan Sims (who impressed as an unheralded freshman) for one of the starting gigs in 2018. Though if Taylor ends up moving to tackle (Hugh Freeze has mentioned that as a possibility this offseason), Johnson could provide key depth or even start as a freshman in 2017.
Here's his tape from The Opening workouts: