Maryland didn’t have to travel far to land the 20th commitment in the 2023 cycle after Pennsylvania defensive tackle Lavon Johnson went public with his pledge. He committed as an unknown commodity to Maryland football fans but those around him speak glowingly of the 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman as he adds needed beef to the trenches.
Johnson eclipsed the 100-tackle mark as a senior while also adding 36 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles but Central Catholic (PA) head coach Tim McGorry his lineman grow during his high school career.
“I think the thing that with Lavon, he’s really developed later in his high school career. His sophomore year, he probably weighed about 340 and then as a junior played around about 320 then around 305, 310 as a senior to the point where he developed himself so much,” he told Inside the Black and Gold. “You look at him now, he looks like he weighs 275. A much leaner body than he was early in his career so I think that’s where he’ll have success at the next level. He really didn’t get a chance to develop his body until his senior year.”
Johnson, a young graduate for his class, will head to Cheshire Academy this month for a prep season before enrolling in College Park next June but his motor as a two-way starter has been hard to ignore.
“I think what separates him and hopefully gives him the opportunity to make an earlier impact in college is he played pretty much as a senior, played 90% of the snaps. He wasn’t a guy that would play the nose then come off the field on third down, no, he played a ton of offense for us and was really productive there. He’s played late in games with not a lot left in the tank and trying to move around 300 pounds and was still really productive.”
Part of the connection between Johnson and Maryland was McGorry’s time spent coaching with Maryland defensive analyst AJ Reising at Lehigh, but if you ask McGorry, it wasn’t the reason why. “Obviously me and AJ have a relationship and he asks me about kids all the time. I think more than anything Maryland did a phenomenal job recruiting him. Whether it was AJ, the [defensive] line coach, coach [Mike] Locksley, coach [Lance] Thompson, I think he was in touch with so many different coaches on the staff and really felt wanted there, I just really think more than our relationship Maryland did a great job recruiting him.”
Johnson first added an offer from the staff back in the spring before taking an unofficial visit to campus in June. Even with offers from Bowling Green, Indiana and Temple among others, that’s when the Terps gradually became the team to beat.
“I think because of his situation and where things were going, there were maybe some of the elite blue bloods that had recently started to track him and recruit him without an offer. When he went down to Maryland and came back, my conversation with him kind of changed. It wasn’t about the elite blue bloods, the conversation started to become more about Maryland and more in-depth about Maryland. That’s kind of when I got a sense this is where he felt.”
It helps that his family won’t need to travel far to see him suit up in college. “I think with anything, I think it’s good in a sense because it’s not really close to home but it’s not far from home and that certainly plays a part in it. I think he wanted to have the ability to have people come see him play.”
Running backs coach Elijah Brooks was the primary recruiter for Johnson while the defensive staff was able to build a relationship as well. Johnson also credited his relationship with defensive coordinator Brian Williams following his decision, but even McGorry noted the facilities at Johnson’s disposal. “I was recently down at Maryland and I’ve been on campus before but seeing the new facilities, they’re out of this world.”
With a prep year ahead of him, McGorry breaks down the area of growth for Maryland’s second defensive line commitment.
“Earlier on in his career, he was just out there playing on the nose and just being disruptive whether it was first down or third down. I think when it got to his senior year and it’s 3rd-and-one, he started thinking ok I’m going to change my stance. I think it’s more becoming a student of the game and being more technical, how he thinks about down and distance and he can get to the point where he’s going to be an excellent player.”
Johnson is not yet rated by On3.