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January 31, 2013

Johnson clears the air

When junior college prospects were first able to enroll back on Dec. 19, Georgia was expected to sign three prospects from those ranks.

The UGA Athletic Association first announced Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Perkinston, Miss.) defensive tackles Chris Mayes. Holmes Community College (Goodman, Miss.) wide receiver Jonathon Rumph was also announced.

The one noticeably absent name was Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College defensive back Kennar Johnson, but day after day passed with no word of whether Johnson would be able to join the Bulldogs in January or not.

Once spring semester started in Athens, doubt began creeping into Bulldog Nation as to whether or not Johnson would be a part of the 2013 class at all.

As it turns out, the Florida native was declared eligible to enroll early at UGA a little too late after clearing some NCAA red tape.

"Originally, I graduated from Mississippi Gulf Coast and in order to go to the SEC coming from a junior college, you have to have been at that junior college for a total of three semesters but summer doesn't count," said Johnson in a phone interview with UGASports on Wednesday night. "With me transferring from California (Reedly College in Reedly, Calif.), I would have to get an appeal from the NCAA to enroll early. I did, but I didn't enroll because when I won that appeal, UGA had already been in school for a couple of weeks. If I had enrolled, I would have been behind on classes. I would have had a lot of catching up to do and I had just come off of taking 25 credit hours. It wasn't a big deal and my coaches at Georgia told me I could enroll in May and it would be no problem."

Johnson, who has been away from his home in Cleremont, Fla. for almost two years, has spent the last month making up for lost time and introducing his family to his future coaches.

"Now, I'm just at home and enjoying my family," he said. "Other than that, I'm working out. I see my coaches like every other week. Last week I had coach (Scott) Lakatos here and he came to my house. He spent some time with me and we went out to eat and stuff. The week before that, he came, Coach (Mark) Richt came, and Coach (Tony) Ball, the receivers coach, came. They all spent time here. Coach Richt, as soon as he pulled up to my house, he started playing basketball with me and my family. They have just been real welcoming and letting me know they still want me to be a part of that family and hoping I feel the same way. They let me know that even though I chose not to come this semester, that I'm still wanted."

It wouldn't be right to bring up shooting hoops with the Georgia head Ccoach without also mentioning Richt's fabled jumper.

"He can shoot it," laughed Johnson. "He likes to use the bank a lot. He likes to hit it off the back backboard. He's old school. He's an old school guy."

While the climb from JUCO to the SEC is often not as steep as when a prospect starts from the high school level, the transition is still quite difficult.

Johnson is doing his part to make the change as seamless as possible by working out with some of the top athletes in the country near his home.

"We have a national training center in Cleremont where all the athletes from around the world come to train for the Olympics," he said. "So I have a membership there and they have trainers there that can work with you depending on what kind of shape you want to get in. I'm just working so that by the time May rolls around, I'll be in tip top shape and go from there."

Once Johnson arrives at UGA in May, he believes he can help the Bulldogs in a variety of ways.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound prospect played safety in his freshman season at Reedly, but switched to cornerback in his sophomore season after transferring to MGCCC.

Now that he is taking the next step in his football career, the three-star JUCO believes he can do both but has a clear preference as well.

"I'm going to play safety at Georgia," said Johnson. "If there is a play on the field where I need to play corner, then I can do that. I won't have an issue. I can play both, but I want to play safety. I'm more comfortable at safety. I'm actually comfortable at both, but I feel safety is where I feel more comfortable and I'm more relaxed there."

After spending time at two different junior colleges, going through the recruiting process, and wading through NCAA formalities, Johnson admits he is ready for the next level.

The JUCO standout knows that the logical next step is months ahead, and he is quite excited about his future.

"It's pretty much time for me to move on. Like I was saying to someone the other day, I'm done with the junior college phase," said Johnson. "I'm ready to move on. I'm excited. I'm ready. I'm ready to get this show on the road and be a Bulldog."



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