Barry Jackson

Here’s why Mark Richt’s nephew — a four-star QB prospect — picked LSU over UM

It has been a tough year of setbacks for UM coach Mark Richt, and the headlines across the Internet made it worse in the past 24 hours:

Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, the Big Lead and other major websites posted blaring headlines mentioning how UM and Richt were bypassed by star quarterback recruit Max Johnson on Wednesday.

Normally, the team that loses a recruiting battle wouldn’t be mentioned in a headline.

But this one was different because Johnson is Richt’s nephew. And Miami was the first school to offer him, back when he was in eighth grade, which made Max “super excited and happy” at the time.

So Johnson’s non-binding commitment to LSU on Wednesday evening certainly stung.

“I want to thank my uncle, Coach Mark Richt for believing in me and offering me my first scholarship,” Johnson, who attends high school in Watkinsville, Ga., wrote in a Wednesday evening message on Twitter announcing his commitment to LSU.

Johnson, the son of former NFL quarterback Brad Johnson, is rated the fifth-best Class of 2020 pro-style quarterback prospect nationally by 247Sports. Johnson, rated the 51st overall best 2020 prospect by Rivals, also had offers from Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, among others.

So why did Johnson choose LSU?

“After four visits to LSU, I knew the fit there was right for me,” he told Rivals. “I have visited there for two games, I have camped there and I took a visit over the summer just to look around and spend time with the coaches. LSU is the right place for me.

“About seven days ago, I knew LSU was where I wanted to go. I called up LSU on Monday night and told them I wanted to commit. Coach [Ed] Orgeron screamed in his raspy voice and he was very excited. I was pretty pumped too.

“All the schools I was looking at are great and they were very respectful to me and my family, but I just felt best about LSU. I love the offense they run, I am really starting to build a strong relationship with coach Steve Emsinger and it is just a place that I can see myself being happy at.

“I was at the Rice game this season and I have been there enough to see that the atmosphere in Baton Rouge is incredible. The fans pack Death Valley out every week and the people there are great. It is just the right place for me.

“I really dug deep to figure out where I wanted to be and if I didn’t feel LSU was the perfect school for me, then I wouldn’t have committed. LSU is the right place for me and it is the best situation for me. I am not taking anymore visits because LSU is the right fit.”

Johnson’s reference to the game day atmosphere at LSU is reminiscent of former Plantation American Heritage star running back Sony Michel telling The Miami Herald in recent years that one reason he picked Georgia over UM several years ago was because the Bulldogs have a better game day atmosphere.

Rivals rates Johnson the sixth-best pro style quarterback in the Class of 2020. He committed to LSU even though another Class of 2020 quarterback, T.J. Finley, is committed there. Finley is ESPN’s 138th best prospect for 2020.

“The obvious is the obvious; Johnson is elite,” Rivals’ Chad Simmons said. “Johnson is a 6-foot-4, 215 pound south-paw with a great frame, a live arm and a great understanding of the game. His father is Brad Johnson, a former Florida State and NFL quarterback, so the new LSU commit has the benefit of working day to day with someone who has played the game at the highest level.

“As a passer, Johnson surprises some with his arm and his touch. He throws a beautiful deep ball and he really processes things quickly. He is very strong mentally and he is advanced when reading coverages and making decisions.”

Incidentally, UM this past January also offered then eighth-grader Jake Johnson, who is Max’s younger brother. Jake Johnson, who has played quarterback and receiver, remains uncommitted; Rivals.com lists him as a tight end.

UM has turned its attention to two other Class of 2020 quarterbacks: three-star Newport Beach (Cal.)-based Ethan Garbers and Connecticut-based four-star quarterback Tyler Van Dyke.

Garbers, 6-3, has only two other offers – San Jose State and Oregon State. Garbers threw for 4100 yards this season with 55 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 67 percent completion percentage.

“QB coach Jon Richt came to the school,” Garbers told Canesport.com. “He said that Miami’s a great opportunity for me to come in and get playing time as a freshman, that they’ll play the best guy that will win them some games. Then he extended the offer and I was extremely grateful. I was a little bit surprised to get the offer. Just coming all the way from Miami to Newport Beach, it was a little bit surprising.”

Van Dyke has 12 offers, including Wisconsin, Syracuse, NC State, Duke and Kentucky. He told Canesport he doesn’t know much about Miami but will take an unofficial visit there in February or March.

Van Dyke, 6-4, is a pro style quarterback who threw for 2000 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.

Meanwhile, Rivals.com reports that Richt this week plans to visit North Carolina-based four-star quarterback Sam Howell, a Class of 2019 prospect who is said to be a firm FSU commitment.

If you missed it, here’s my story with new details on Al Golden’s lawsuit against UM and UM’s response.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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