Texas A&M Football: Why wasn’t Antonio Johnson a five-star prospect?

Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M football (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M football (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

Nobody will be calling the Texas A&M football team “DBU,” meaning that the Aggies don’t necessarily have too many big-name defensive backs. Generally speaking, you align the Aggie name with guys like Johnny Manziel, Myles Garrett, and a handful of other successful college football players.

Still, A&M always has steady production at the cornerback spot — seeing some of the best guys in the conference in College Station won’t surprise anybody. One guy, however, has quietly been one of the best in the nation at his position.

That player is Antonio Johnson, who exploded onto the scene as a true sophomore after an underrated freshman campaign.

Why wasn’t Texas A&M football DB Antonio Johnson given a higher rating at the high school level?

Before I go any further, it’s important to clarify that Antonio Johnson wasn’t some unnoticed, unranked prospect at the high school level. The Aggie defensive back was a four-star top-100 overall prospect and the fourth-best safety in the country. He held offers from Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, and a handful of others.

But after a year that saw him earn first-team All-American honors from PFF and quickly become the leader of Texas A&M’s secondary, some questions arise. One of those questions is in regards to his high school rating, which wasn’t particularly flattering. Johnson was one of the quickest emerging defensive stars in the SEC. Jimbo Fisher has been nothing but complimentary toward his soon-to-be junior defensive back.

Even Mike Elko, who is now the head coach at Duke, spoke very highly of Johnson, referring to him as someone who will be “an unbelievable player next year in the SEC,” according to 247Sports.

So what gives?

This isn’t a Johnny Manziel-type situation with a player who won the Heisman as a freshman after being a three-star prospect. Still, Antonio Johnson seemingly came out of nowhere, largely due to his size. His height was fine, but most experts believed he would need some time to add mass at the next level, as he was a relatively lanky 6’3″ defensive back. Here’s what 247Sports’ Allen Trieu said.

"“Solid wrap-up tackler and willing to be physical. Added strength will help him there. Has man-to-man skills and can play up in the box, over a slot or in the deep part of the field. Mainly, he has to make strength and conditioning gains at the next level, but he is a versatile defender who can succeed in multiple roles in a variety of alignments.”"

As you can see, there’s a very heavy focus on his strength — something that seemingly has not been an issue for him thus far. To be blunt, it doesn’t really matter what experts thought was wrong with Johnson in high school — he’s been as elite as you could imagine in his first two years in College Station.

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Hopefully, Johnson can take another step forward in his junior season and help A&M have one of the most difficult secondaries to face in the country.