For the class of 2022, commitment No. 3, overall, is in the books for the UCF football program. The third commitment would be Jamaal Johnson, the 6’2”, 250-pound defensive end who plays for Chaminade-Madonna, a private school in the 3A classification of the Florida High School State Athletic Association. Coming from Miramar, Fla., there were numerous offers before selecting UCF.
Johnson’s offer list included UCF, Miami, USF, Florida International, Utah State, Indiana, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Kentucky, Iowa State, West Virginia, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Pittsburgh among others. Johnson also comes from a very important recruiting area for the Knights.
While there’s no question that Central Florida prospects will be the focus for UCF football this year and moving forward, landing three to five South Florida prospects each year makes sense for UCF. There is talent galore in Broward and Dade Counties, plus there’s a very high percentage of players that play defense, something UCF truly needs in the 2022 recruiting class.
That’s commitment No. 1 from South Florida, but not expect it to be the last for the Knights. UCF is definitely taking a strong interest in the talent at programs like Chaminade-Madonna, as well as several other programs in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Hollywood, and neighboring cities and towns. Johnson is possibly the first commitment of several from that area.
While discussing South Florida high school football, here’s something interesting.
Johnson plays for the three-time defending state champions. Being a part of a winning formula helps a young person understand the sacrifices necessary to win big within a team sport like football. Playing for Chaminade-Madonna, Johnson has been a big part of that success.
As for Johnson the player, anyone that has seen him play live or simply watch his highlights will notice two things very quickly. He’s a natural athlete and he plays hard. When combined with good coaching and a winning attitude, that’s how Johnson helped to lead Chaminade-Madonna.
After watching Johnson and Chaminade-Madonna play a neutral site game versus Clearwater (Fla.) Clearwater Academy International on Oct. 16, 2020, it was obvious that Johnson could play at a high level. A few mental notes from that game alone include his effort and strength. Evaluating him further via his entire junior highlight tape, and the list of accomplishments rises significantly.
Johnson generally plays power to speed, which is customary for a strong-side defensive end. His hands come into play with that power to speed. He’s an active pass rusher; once Johnson engages his opponent there’s almost always a counter move with his hands. A common pass rush move would be Johnson going directly at the offensive tackle, shooting his hands into the opponent’s chest, and then utilizing a rip move to move into the offensive backfield.
Change of Direction
When considering Johnson’s athletic ability, a good place to begin would be his ability to move laterally like a linebacker. Going against an option play or read-option play is natural for Johnson. He bends well at the knees, gets into a football position, and attacks the midpoint of the ball carrier.
Watching Johnson come to a stop after taking away a preferred running angle for the ball carrier, and then quickly chasing that player down is fun to watch. Part of this ability is Johnson’s football IQ.
The most surprising play on Johnson’s highlight reel transpired when he rolled out into the flat to cover a player going out for a pass. Not only did Johnson stick with his assignment, he took away the football from the opposing player, and then started to return the interception in the other opposite direction.
No hesitation. Just play. Johnson went from defensive end, to outside linebacker, to essentially being a tight end all during one snap of the football. He’s a natural football player. Here’s the play:
Player Comparison: Former Hokie and NFL Player Darryl Tapp
If there was one player from the college and/or professional ranks that Johnson best resembled, it would be former Virginia Tech defensive end Darryl Tapp. He was a really good pass rusher for the Hokies before turning in a good NFL career that spanned from 2006 through 2017.
The comparison stems from Tapps power and quickness, plus Johnson’s fluidity is similar to Tapp. Neither player is the 6’6” defensive end that so many teams covet, but they use leverage and strength that comes from their height and athleticism.
Much like Tapp, Johnson's stout and powerful frame allows him to power by offensive tackles, as well as keep leverage against them. Sacks matter, and Tapp and Johnson have a similar style of game that reaches the quarterback.
This is a big commitment for UCF football and Head Coach Gus Malzahn. The Knights need defensive talent, and Johnson is a highly coveted prospect. Further, he’s from the fertile grounds of Broward County, the same county that just placed 12 college players into the NFL Draft. Yes, 12 players.
Getting Johnson and beginning to establish a rapport with top coaching staffs like Chaminade-Madonna is a great day for UCF football.
Inside The Knights will do a full video breakdown of Johnson Saturday morning.