Tennessee probably won’t have to worry about its quarterback situation for a few years. The Volunteers added another top-tier passer Sunday, earning a verbal commitment from Hunter Johnson. The top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2017, according to Rivals.com, chose Tennessee over reported scholarship offers from more than 20 programs.
Only a few months ago, Volunteers fans were celebrating their team’s addition of another heralded QB, Jarrett Guarantano, following the decommitment of a different highly touted signal caller, Austin Kendall. Johnson, a 6’2” rising junior at Brownsburg (Ind.) High, has more potential than both players, and he continues an impressive run of quarterback recruiting under coach Butch Jones.
Since 2013, the first year Tennessee signed a recruiting class with Jones in charge, the Vols have landed current starter Joshua Dobbs and three other four-star QBs: Quinten Dormady, Jauan Jennings* and Sheriron Jones. With Guarantano set to arrive in Knoxville in 2016 (possibly as an early enrollee) and Johnson getting to campus a year later, Tennessee has a promising future at the most important position on the field.
Johnson is highly regarded for his arm strength and accuracy. “The football jumps off his hand and he can hit any point on the field with accuracy,” Rivals.com’s Josh Helmholdt said. “Every year there are players with exceptional arms, though. What separates Johnson is not just his ability to throw the football, but the poise and maturity with which he handles himself and conducts his business.”
As a sophomore at Brownsburg, he completed 54% of his passes for 1,434 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Johnson was considered a priority quarterback target for Notre Dame and also drew offers from Florida, Penn State, Oklahoma and Michigan, among other programs. He visited Knoxville several times before making his announcement and said he chose the Vols in part because of the momentum the program has generated and his relationship with the coaches.
"One of the big things for me was just the coaching staff there at Tennessee and just the energy around Tennessee right now," Johnson told Rivals.com. "Coach Jones is a great, great coach and I have been developing a great relationship with Coach [Mike] DeBord [Tennessee’s offensive coordinator]. The fan base at Tennessee is obviously huge and one of the best in college football. It is a very special place and I am happy to be a part of it.”
Though Tennessee has had plenty of success on the recruiting trail under Jones despite middling results on the field, it’s no stretch to suggest Johnson, if he honors his pledge, would be the most significant recruit of the fourth-year coach’s tenure in Knoxville. Keep in mind that the Vols landed four five-star prospects last year, including mammoth defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie.
With Johnson announcing his college decision, the top dual-threat and pro-style quarterbacks in the rising high school junior class are off the board. Tate Martell announced his intention to attend Texas A&M last week.
*Jennings is switching to wide receiver.