OCALA — Chris Johnson knows exactly where he wants to go. It’s basically been decided since he first started watching college football.
The Ocala Trinity Catholic defensive back has his eye on the University of Florida, and with a written offer in his lap, he’s hoping to make his football dream a reality very soon.
“Absolutely. Go Gators,” Johnson said when asked if Florida remained his leader. “If you’re not a Gator, you’re Gator bait.”
But there is a catch.
Johnson, better known as “Juice” by his coaches and teammates because of his high energy and tremendous speed, has ground to make up on the academic side. Johnson said he has to make a 17 on the ACT before he can be ruled academically eligible to play at the Division I level.
Johnson is confident he can raise his score and took the test Saturday morning following Trinity Catholic’s 16-0 win over Ocala Vanguard. Florida coach Urban Meyer challenged Johnson to get at least a 20, something Johnson said has motivated him to study even more.
Once Johnson gets his score back, if it is a 17 or higher he plans to “immediately” commit to Florida. If his score is lower than a 20, he will retake it until he surpasses Meyer’s challenge.
As for Johnson’s play Friday night, he moved around the entire defense, playing corner, safety and rushing right off the line, like a linebacker. His job was to put as much pressure on Vanguard’s quarterback as possible. He blitzed. He sat back in coverage and tried to blanket his side of the field when he was in. He also played running back at times.
Just before halftime, and with the Celtics leading 3-0, Johnson had a chance to put his team up by two scores when he jumped a route and looked to be headed the other way for a touchdown, but he couldn’t come up with the interception.
Johnson certainly redeemed himself with a little more than a minute left in the game. He baited the quarterback into throwing to his side. Halfway between the quarterback and the receiver, who was planted on the first-down marker on the right sideline, Johnson jumped the route, snatched the ball out of the air and high-stepped his way out-of-bounds to seal the victory. He Gator chomped his way back to his sideline as the referees called him for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“When he looked my way I knew that was my ball,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t drop that.
“It was a game-changer. I knew I had to step up and make a play. I could have gotten a touchdown, but I was just ready to get the game over with.”
With his team 2-0 on the year and with league play approaching, Celtics coach John Brantley said he’ll lean on Johnson as one of the leaders of his team. Brantley said he’s come a long way as a leader and expects him to really take charge in his final year.
One thing he’d like to see his captain improve on is his mindset when he lines up in the backfield. Johnson has the speed, but his moves seem directed at people as opposed to around them.
“I’d like to see him look for more grass,” Brantley said. “He likes to run over people.”
While Brantley would like to assist Johnson in his running style, he’s backing off when it comes to recruiting. Brantley knows where Johnson’s heart is and doesn’t feel he needs to assist in his recruitment once that test score comes back.
“He’s always wanted to be a Gator and he likes to do the chomp,” Brantley said.