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Michael Carvell

Rico Johnson: UGA turns to familiar face for commit No. 17

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It was a day later than expected, but UGA finally got commitment No. 17 on Monday.

Wide receiver Rico Johnson, who signed with UGA last year but did not qualify, committed to the Bulldogs after taking an official visit.

Johnson, who attended Swainsboro High School and played at Georgia Prep Sports Academy this past season, picked UGA over Middle Tennessee State and Marshall.

“I’m happy for Rico because this was his dream to go back to UGA,” Mike Carson, coach of Georgia Prep Sports Academy.

“I’m just glad that we were able to be a part of that process for him. I’m real excited about it. Coming into our program, that was his intent or hope that the University of Georgia would stay on him. I know it got kind of rocky there for a while. But in the end, it all worked out for him.”

Until Johnson took his recruiting trip to UGA, it wasn’t a sure thing that he would try to play again for the Bulldogs. He didn’t have serious interest from UGA until recently, with Mark Richt pretty much sealing the deal with a trip to Swainsboro for an in-home visit last Thursday.

“He had a great weekend with Coach Richt on the official visit, and I’m just happy for the kid,” Carson said. “They felt like he was their kid coming out of high school and, in my conversations with (UGA wide receivers coach Tony Ball), they just wanted to stay true to their commitment to him.”

Johnson is similar to UGA’s Justin Scott-Wesley out of high school – he’s a raw and undeveloped wide receiver with top-end speed that can stretch the field. Like Scott-Wesley, Johnson was a high school track star, winning a state championship in the 100 meters in 2012.

“You can’t coach speed,” Carson said. “I just reflect back to the first game against LaGrange College. We don’t want a punt fielded if it’s over your head inside the 10-yard line. Well, Rico fields the ball three yards deep into the end zone, and takes it 103 yards for the touchdown.

“Speed definitely kills. He can score from anywhere on the field anytime he touches the ball.”

After signing with UGA last February, Johnson failed to get approved by the NCAA’s Clearinghouse. He will finish the last part of his necessary coursework this week, according to Carson.

“There were some rocky moments but in the end, it all worked out for Rico,” Carson said. “That’s what is most important.”

Finding a big-time playmaker at wide receiver is a big priority for UGA’s 2014 class because there hasn’t been much productivity yet out of the team’s last two classes at the position.

UGA now has 17 commitments, and could sign between 20-22 in February.

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