H.D. Woodson junior cornerback DuWayne Johnson knew he had to break out of his shell on the recruiting front this spring and summer, so he aggressively pursued appearances at camps that would give him exposure. He visited the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge outside of Dallas. He traveled to another camp in Pittsburgh. He competed with some of the area’s best players at Maryland’s one-day camp, and headed to Atlanta to display his talent at Georgia’s summer camp held at the Georgia Dome.
And it was well worth it for Johnson, who has transformed into one of the area’s most highly touted defensive players this past year. He currently has 14 offers on the table, according to Rivals, and the schools that have been in hot pursuit recently are Clemson, Georgia and Virginia Tech, he said, and all three have made offers. Johnson has more traveling planned this fall, too, with slated visits to the Georgia’s matchup against LSU on Sept. 28, the Virginia Tech and Maryland game on Nov. 16, and a Clemson game sometime later in the fall. Miami, North Carolina and Rutgers are among the growing list of schools to also make offers.
“It’s too early right now,” Johnson said of slimming down his top choices. “I did pretty well [at camps this year]. I guess I made them interested more.”
At 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, Johnson came into his own as a sophomore at H.D. Woodson, where he credits Tennessee recruit and teammate D’Andre Payne with helping him to develop. They are different players in many ways – at 5-foot-9 and about 180 pounds, Payne is shorter and stockier, and his veteran presence on the field emanates with confidence. Johnson has a longer frame. He is more soft-spoken and still learning his role at Woodson, but his size and speed is a rare combination at the position. And he’s starting to develop an edge which the position requires, according to Payne.
“I am a big brother to him. He’s gotten a lot better from his freshman year and he starting to get more swag now. He starting to interact more,” Payne said. “He’s getting more comfortable with his game.”
Recruiting services have lauded Johnson’s ideal height, speed and leaping ability – but he said he is concentrating on weaknesses. Aside from adding size to his lean frame, he’s focusing on areas such as back pedaling, breaking on the ball with his left leg and running with receivers.
His recruitment started to pick up traction at the beginning of his sophomore season, when college coaches started to attend his games at Woodson. That’s when he knew his future was bright — but that it also required a commitment to playing against the best recruits across the country during the offseason.
“I didn’t feel a lot of pressure. Like when I went down to Georgia, the coach there, Coach [Tony] Ball, he coaches the wide receivers, he wanted to see me go against some of the top prospects they had coming to Georgia,” Johnson said. “I did pretty well. I believe I can get better.”