Defensive Star: Anthony Johnson
Freakish Johnson the vocal member of “The Fam”
New Orleans area talent Anthony Johnson, pictured left, has a rare combination of speed and size that make him an appealing option right away to play for LSU (photo courtesy of O. Perry Walker High School).
By RICHARD FISCHER
Tiger Rag Assistant Editor
As we all know by now, LSU’s 2011 recruiting class refers to itself as “The Fam.”
This close-knit group of Bayou footballers has come together and become friends off the field much more than most signing classes do before enrolling on campus.
And since every solid family has a strong base of leadership, Anthony “Freak” Johnson of O. Perry Walker has taken on a leader-of-the-pack role within “The Fam,” according to his high school coach, Emanuel Powell.
“He talks to some of the other kids already going to LSU, and he’s always trying to get them to stay on board to help win a national championship,” Powell told Tiger Rag.
As the head of household, Johnson has already pledged his allegiance to LSU by enrolling in classes, and he will participate in spring football - something that Powell said would not only help him athletically, but academically as well.
“It’s no secret it helps for him to come in early to get his feet wet in the academic area and to already start to accumulate credit hours,” said Powell. “Then to be among the coaches and learn some of the schemes even before spring and then being able to go through spring.”
As a senior at O. Perry Walker, Powell said his dominating defensive tackle focused on redefining his technique and working to get leverage in order to make a seamless transition into the college game.
But it may be Johnson’s growth after the whistle sounds that has impressed the coach the most this season.
“He’s become more of a leader on and off the field,” continued Powell. “He’s always been a leader, but I think you’re seeing it more and more, and he’s becoming a better leader than before. He was more hands-on helping the younger kids and helping develop their skills.”
Showing almost superhuman strength as a junior in high school, lifting 28 bench press reps of 225 pounds, Powell said Johnson hasn’t necessarily gotten any stronger in his senior season because he simply hasn’t had to.
“Have you seen him? He’s a man right now,” said Powell.
To put his bench press accolades in perspective, only 15 of 50 participating defensive linemen at the 2010 NFL Combine did more reps. And these are former college players who are the best of the best and are preparing for the NFL.
But one on-field area in which Powell has noticed an improvement has been in Johnson’s physical shape his senior season, nearly recording 20 sacks from an interior line position.
“Anthony comes to play, and he’s going to demand two men to block him at times on the high school level,” said Powell. “That allows other people to go free. So he might not make all the plays, per se, but he’s a game changer in that he makes people change their scheme in terms of what they want to do.”
But as well as Johnson played this season and as much national attention as he received being one of the top recruits in the nation, Powell said you never really know how good a prospect is until he goes up against players who are just as heralded as he is.
That’s why Johnson’s play in the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Fla., gave his accompanying coach all the proof he would need that his prospect is indeed worthy of all the hype.
“I wanted to see that first-hand, because you get the best against the best, and I can tell you he looked like one of the best in the country,” explained Powell. “You see him line up against some of the outstanding offensive lineman and doing the things he did were just unbelievable. That tells me that he’s ready to play.”
The New Orleans native had two sacks in the all-star game and would have had the game winning field goal block had his squad not broken the rules of the game and rushed five players rather than the allowed four.
And even though the other team’s kicker made his second attempt and won the game for his side, Johnson’s ability to make the big play in the big moment impressed Powell.
“That just shows the tenacity that he has, and when it comes down to it, it’s all about winning,” said the coach. “He’s a true winner to go out and block that kick the way he did.”
After seeing Johnson compete admirably against the cream of the crop in Florida, Powell has no doubt that Johnson is ready to step in and play for the Tigers immediately.
“I think he’s going to be a real positive fixture to that defense once he gets out on that field,” said Powell. “Barring any injuries I think physically and emotionally he’s going to be ready to play.”