The state”s top-ranked defensive player is headed to Ole Miss.
Philadelphia linebacker C.J. Johnson, a five-star recruit according to Rivals.com, announced today he was spurning Mississippi State in favor of the Rebels.
Rod Walker of the Clarion-Ledger broke the story earlier this afternoon.
Once a Mississippi State commit since his junior year, Johnson de-committed the day after former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz left to take the same position at Texas.
Johnson told me Diaz”s departure was a factor, but his former recruiting coach Mark Hudspeth”s departure to become head coach Louisiana-LAfayette was just as pivotal.
MSU head coach Dan Mullen was the only familiar face, compared to what he described as “everybody” from Ole Miss” staff recruiting him.
Johnson (6-foot-1, 235 pounds) said he and Mullen had an “OK” relationship and that they had “a few times” to sit down and talk.
I spoke to him shortly after his decision became public and he was blunt in why he chose the Rebels.
“I feel like I have a better chance to succeed and be a better person and be in a great atmosphere than I would if I had went to Mississippi State,” Johnson said.
Johnson was State”s second verbal commitment for the 2011 class after pledging in the fall of ”09.
Johnson said he planned to wait until signing day but wanted to get the process out of the way.
A report Tuesday by CBSSports.com”s Bryan Fischer said recent rumors spread via social network site Facebook could have played a role in Johnson choosing Ole Miss.
Johnson acknowledged his frustration with Facebook users trying to sway his decision, but sees it as just another annoyance in the whirlwind recruiting process.
“And again, I didn”t base my decision of Facebook,” Johnson said. “That would be arrogant of me to say I didn”t go to MSU because y”all”s fans was chewing me out on facebook.
“You make a decision based on the fans, you make a decision for the wrong reason. Having said that, I”ve had some people posing as Mississippi State fans. I”ve actually had some State fans pose as Ole Miss fans because it”s a lot of people that”s graduated from my high school that go to Mississippi State. It”s a lot of Ole Miss fans around town, too.”
Johnson said the trash talk and constant attempts from fans at both schools to sway him either way were” pretty equal.”
“There”s rumors going around that my mom has been working for some Ole Miss people and she”s making $100,000 a year,” he said. “That”s definitely a trip, because if my mom was making that I wouldn”t be driving the truck I”m driving. I just wanted to get all that over with.”
I asked Johnson if the attention he got in the recruiting process should be considered a prep for having attention as a college player, and possibly a pro player, and his response was pretty insightful.
“It”s not so much getting used to it,” Johnson said. “You have so much power and control over where you want to go, it kind of makes people feel like they have to make an impression on you to try and make a decision.
“When you”re in college, only their fans are going to praise you. It”s a different atmosphere when you get to where you”re going before you get to where you”re going.”
Johnson becomes the latest recruiting coup for Ole Miss, which has snagged Madison Central receiver Tobias Singleton and is in pole position to land South Panola wide receiver Nick Brassell.
They”re also in the mix for four-star athlete Jermaine Whitehead, who also was committed to MSU and plans to decide soon.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, will replace all three starting linebackers from the ”10 season, including current Senior Bowl participants K.J. Wright and Chris White.
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