Sunday, Johnson committed to Penn State.
He is the 12th member of a class that seems to be proving that the Sandusky scandal has had little impact on the recruiting efforts of new Nittany Lion coach Bill O'Brien and his staff. Six members of the class carry four-star or better rankings from Scout.com — this after PSU landed exactly one four-star prospect for its Class of 2012.
Johnson echoed a familiar refrain when asked what impact the scandal had on his decision.
“The scandal doesn't concern me, because this is a whole new staff that I made a great relationship with,” he said. “They had nothing to do with it.”
Despite the intense national media coverage of the Sandusky trial the past two weeks, Johnson said he had made up his mind about attending Penn State even before his weekend visit. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder's other two finalists were Ohio State and Pitt.
But he wanted to make sure his mother and grandmother were comfortable with the program, too, so they came along on the visit. They gave him a thumbs up on the drive back to Belle Vernon and Johnson called O'Brien with the news of the commitment Sunday night.
“I've been feeling it for the last week and a half or so that I wanted to go to Penn State, and we talked about it the whole ride home,” Johnson said. “I made the decision beforehand, but wanted to confirm it Saturday.
“My grandmother and mother loved Penn State, and they loved it more after Saturday,” he added.
What set Penn State apart? And how solid is this decision?
“The campus and the football tradition they have is great,” Johnson said. “When I talked to Pittsburgh and Ohio State, they said they will still recruit me until signing day, but I'm a Nittany Lion.”
And that is great news for O'Brien. Even before Johnson's commitment, the Lions had the nation's 13th-best recruiting class according to Scout.com. That improved to No. 10 after landing the talented prospect from Pitt's backyard.
“(O'Brien) was thrilled that I wanted to come to Penn State,” Johnson said. “He thought I was going to Pittsburgh. But he's excited to have me in the fold.”
Scout.com five-star tight end Adam Breneman and four-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg -- both previous Penn State commits -- helped convince Johnson to become a Nittany Lion. Now Johnson is anxious to go to work talking to prospects, too.
“I'm ready to start help recruiting other guys in the class,” he said. “I'm not sure which guys yet, but I know Adam and Christian will help me.”
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