When Williamsport (Md.) four-star defensive tackle Tayquon Johnson made his first visit to Clemson back in the spring, he felt a vibe within the program that was different than some of the other schools he checked out during the recruiting process.
“Some of the things that I saw going down to Clemson was the loving family atmosphere,” Johnson told The Clemson Insider last week during our Tour of Champions stop to see him at Williamsport High School. “It was outstanding. It was better than a lot of other programs that I had visited.”
After that initial visit in April, Johnson needed to see Clemson just one more time before deciding that it was the place where he wanted to continue his academic and athletic career. He returned to campus on May 11 and then committed to the Tigers three days later over offers from Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and others.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff helped set the Tigers apart from Johnson’s other college suitors.
“Their coaching staff genuinely cares about you,” Johnson said. “They put your education first. That made the most difference to me rather than other schools. Other schools always talked about, ‘We need you for this, we need you for that.’ When I sat down and met with Coach Swinney, some of the things that he said was, ‘We promise you an education, we promise you your degree.’ That is something that they instill in their athletes.”
Johnson became the first commitment from a defensive lineman in Clemson’s 2019 recruiting class. The 6-foot-2, 295-pounder will have a chance to make an early impact for the Tigers on the interior D-line, as they are in line to lose a few defensive tackles following the 2018 season.
Johnson said he is ready to put his head down and go to work when he arrives on campus to start his career next summer.
“I believe that I’ll come in and work my hardest every time we have practice, every time we go out and we work together as a unit,” he said. “I believe that my technique is going to be key because if the big guys tell you that’s what you need to work on, that’s what you need to work on. From my experience down at camp, I’ll probably have to work on my hips a lot and just work on using my hands a lot more.”
Johnson had the opportunity to work with Clemson defensive tackles coach Todd Bates when he visited campus again to participate in the Swinney Camp in June. He also picked up tips from players such as star defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence while at the camp.
”They told me that it’s not about how strong you are, it’s about your technique,” Johnson said. “That’s going to help you be able to play at a collegiate level and excel at it. They said you just need to work on the little things and the little things are what matters.”
Johnson began his high school career at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., before transferring to Williamsport. As a junior at Williamsport last season, the big and athletic lineman tallied 87 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and eight sacks in nine games, while also rushing for 55 yards and six touchdowns on 14 carries.
What can Tiger fans expect to see from him on the field in the future?
“They’re going to see that he’s a really hard worker,” he said. “Whether he’s playing or whether he’s not, he’s going to go out and he’s going to challenge his teammates to be the best that they can be because ‘Best is the Standard’.”
Johnson is rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN, which ranks him as the No. 7 overall prospect in the state of Maryland and No. 22 defensive tackle nationally for the 2019 class.