The Early Signing Period for college football began on Wednesday, and National Letters of Intent have been flying in from all over the country. While most of those NLIs are not sent in via fax machine anymore, commitments are not official until paperwork is completed. The South Carolina football program is hoping to have most of their class secured by the end of the Early Signing Period.
One of the players in the class who made things official is 4-star linebacker/EDGE Fred "JayR" Johnson.
Recruiting Ranking: 4 stars (247Sports and Rivals), 3 stars (On3 and ESPN); All-American Bowl
Measurables: 6'3"; 225 pounds; 4.54-second 40-yard dash; 4.2-second short shuttle; 285-pound bench press; 495-pound squat; 320-pound hang clean; 9'8" broad jump
Former Player Comp: John Abraham/Ernest Jones
Fred Johnson (who sometimes goes by "JayR") was a relative unknown in the recruiting world when he popped up on South Carolina's campus for a camp visit earlier this year. However, he quickly became known as he posted some eye-popping testing numbers for his physical measurements.
At 6'3" and 225 pounds, Johnson ran 40-yard dash times in the 4.5-range, and he showed off some change-of-direction with a 4.2 in the short shuttle. He also has a frame that suggests he can carry more weight and carry it well. If he were to end up as a 240-pound linebacker or 250-pound EDGE player, it would shock almost no one.
Johnson played all over the field for his high school team at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia. On offense, he was a deadly weapon at wide receiver and tight end and a disruptive force as an outside linebacker. He made 1st-team All-State in Virginia at both tight end and all-purpose defender, and he was the Virginia Eastern District Player of the Year.
As a player, Johnson is built physically a lot like former Gamecock All-SEC pass rusher John Abraham. Johnson could end up as a stand-up linebacker or as an EDGE rusher. Because Abraham settled into a role as a defensive end, he added some weight, and Johnson could do the same if he becomes a full-time pass rusher. If he stays as a linebacker, he could fit the Ernest Jones profile as a backer who can run sideline to sideline as a run-stopper and offer some help in the pass rush.
The Gamecocks return a lot of veterans at linebacker and EDGE in 2024. However, the Carolina pass rush wasn't good last season, so if Johnson can add some juice on obvious passing downs, maybe he can carve out a role on the team next fall.
You can watch some of his film here.