It’s fair to say that Williamsport (Md.) four-star defensive tackle Tayquon Johnson fell in love with Clemson at first sight.
Johnson’s head coach at Williamsport High School, Tim Small, had planned a tour of visits to several schools that were recruiting his star player. However, it took only one visit for Johnson to find a home.
After a stop at Clemson, Johnson told Small that he didn’t need to go on the other visits they had planned. Shortly thereafter, Johnson jumped on board with the Tigers when he committed to Dabo Swinney’s program in May over offers from Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, Texas A&M and others.
Small, who accompanied Johnson on the aforementioned visit to Clemson, spoke with TCI during our Tour of Champions stop at Williamsport High School last week and said he is excited about Johnson’s future as a Tiger.
“I thought everything was first class – everything from the discussions with Coach Swinney and the defensive coordinator and the defensive line staff and everybody, right down to the people who were serving you food in the team complex,” Small said, reflecting on the visit. “The thing that impressed us was a lot of the conversations were not all the time about football – it was about developing him into a young man and the things that were going to help him be successful in his future, whether football works out or not. And everybody has stood by their word, has been great to deal with, and we’re really excited about him headed to Clemson.”
Johnson transferred to Williamsport from St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., ahead of his junior year.
Upon his arrival to Williamsport, the 6-foot-2, 295-pounder immediately made a significant impact for Small’s program on the field and in the locker room.
“We really saw him, right away, kind of bring up the level of competitiveness in our program,” Small said. “He really was a leader in regards to showing everybody how to compete and some of the things you’ve got to do and the work you have to put in in the offseason. He also impacted our program through the leadership piece. We have a leadership counsel set up that really is a steering committee for the program and gives kids opportunities to take some ownership and do some different things. So, right away was able to kind of blend in.
“Obviously he’s large in stature and plays at a really high level. But he really gelled within the program and became a great teammate and just really took care of everything we asked him to do.”
Similarly, Small envisions Johnson fitting right into Clemson’s program when he arrives on campus to start his career next summer.
“Clemson obviously competes at a very high level. Lot of fun to watch. Terrific program, fantastic. We think Tayquon will kind of blend right into that structure,” Small said. “He’s a kid that knows how to compete, and obviously you can tell, being around the Clemson program and the family and the coaches, it’s all about competition – in the right way, but everybody gets after it. So, looking forward to seeing Tayquon when he gets down this summer, really getting after it and just becoming a part of what they’re trying to do and hopefully get a chance to play as soon as he’s ready.”
Johnson recorded over 30 tackles for loss for Williamsport as a senior this season. As a junior, he had 87 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss and eight sacks in nine games.
ESPN ranks Johnson as a four-star prospect and ranks him as the No. 22 defensive tackle in the country for the 2019 recruiting class.
“He’s got a terrific motor,” Small said of Johnson. “When we talk about motor in football, for different people that means different things. But he’s got a great get-off from the defensive line position. He really knows how to use leverage and use his hands well. He never gets turned. Sometimes he’s trying to make plays hash-to-hash, numbers-to-numbers even sometimes, so he can kind of get a little sideways, and I’m sure they’ll work on him and get him better with that. But he’s a real physical talent, plays with a great base and plays pretty quick, and he makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. So, it’s pretty exciting.”