November 7, 2008

Rebels move to front for Georgia DL

When Josh Jackson heard that Tracy Rocker was coming to his school this week for the purpose of talking to him, he got pretty anxious.

Rocker, a Georgia native who earned Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors while winning the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award during his stellar career at Auburn, is in his first year as Ole Miss' defensive line coach. Jackson has 260 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, but that's nothing compared to Rocker, who is mountainous in stature and legendary in reputation.

As it turned out, there was nothing for the Gainesville, Ga., defensive lineman to worry about. Rocker was in town because he had checked out Jackson's film and decided he wanted to have him join him at Ole Miss next year.

"Coach Rocker gave me a verbal offer," Jackson said Friday morning. "I'm excited about it. I was pretty nervous when I saw him. I heard a lot about him and I was excited somebody of that caliber would come to Georgia just to talk to me. I was excited. It felt good."

The written offer, Johnson said, will come once his ACT score is received. Johnson took the test a couple of weeks ago and did "pretty good. I'm all right."

Johnson has offers from North Carolina State and Georgia State, and Arkansas has indicated that an offer is coming soon, but the Rebels' offer clearly made a huge impression.

"I'd say they're the top," Johnson said. "They're No. 1. I always liked the school. (Ole Miss safety) Kendrick Lewis played for us and he likes it there and it would be great to play for Coach Rocker."

Johnson said he hasn't set up a firm date for an official visit to Oxford. However, he expects to do that soon, and if the visit goes well, a commitment to the Rebels could follow soon after. Johnson plays defensive end for Gainesville (9-0), which faces off against Flowery Branch (8-1) for the region championship tonight. Rocker told Johnson that Ole Miss will move him inside to defensive tackle.

"That's what they told me," Johnson said. "I'll probably move inside to tackle. It's something new. I'll try it. I kind of expected it. I think I can make it far. What stands out about me is leadership and when I get on the field, it's like a war out there and I'm a survivor. I've got a motor, too. I keep going and going until the end. Coach Rocker said I'm the kind of player he's looking for. I've matured a lot. I listen to people and do what I'm supposed to do."

Johnson enters tonight's game against Flowery Branch with 76 tackles and 11 quarterback sacks.

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