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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
DL Johnson intends to play immediately

By Radi Nabulsi

The Georgia Bulldogs were unable to limit opponents' running games as well as defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had expected last season. Despite having three players who are projected to go in the first round of the NFL draft, the Bulldogs ranked No. 12 in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game. Senior John Jenkins, who anchored the defensive line, will need to be replaced at the nose spot. With Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington graduating, the lack of line depth that was apparent in the SEC championship game also needs to be addressed.

Grantham hopes that new Georgia defensive tackle commitment Toby Johnson (College Park, Ga./Hutchinson, Kan., Community College) can help with that. The No. 4 player in the ESPN Junior College 100 will play defensive end and move inside during nickel situations.

“Toby brings athleticism to Georgia,” said Ryan Andrews, Johnson’s former coach at Banneker High in College Park, Ga. Andrews told DawgNation what makes the lineman's skill set so valuable.

“People don’t realize how he moves for a guy his size at 305 pounds -- he played basketball his entire career," Andrews said. "This is big for Georgia.”

The 6-foot-4 defensive tackle picked Georgia over Auburn and Mississippi State. The Tigers, rebuilding their abysmal defense from last season, are well on their way with the additions of signees Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel. Johnson would have been icing on Auburn's cake. Mississippi State will feel the sting of losing Johnson the most as the Bulldogs were ninth in rushing yards allowed per game last season.

Andrews also said that Johnson’s decision to pick the Bulldogs came as a surprise.

“This morning I thought he was going somewhere else, but he called me and said he could not see himself playing anywhere else,” Andrews said.

Apparently Johnson had a change of heart Monday night and called Mark Richt to commit to Georgia. He had maintained for months that the Bulldogs were his leader but official visits to Auburn and Mississippi State had those two programs in the running. He also had a close relationship with Rodney Garner, the defensive line coach who left Georgia to take the same position at Auburn.

“I took my visits, and I felt it was Georgia all along,” Johnson said. “I felt the most comfortable there. I called Mark Richt, and he was really excited about having me.”

Johnson still needs to qualify and is rehabbing a knee injury he suffered last November. Johnson maintains that the damage to his ACL and MCL will not keep him from contributing immediately.

“I plan to enroll June 6, and I do not plan to redshirt,” Johnson said. “It feels great to be a Dawg.”

-- DawgNation's Kipp Adams contributed.