January 28, 2012

Notes: Johnson considering early commitment

OXFORD, Miss. -- Byhalia, Miss., offensive lineman Davion Johnson made the short trip to Oxford Saturday.

The 6-foot-4 , 315-pounder already feels a connection to Ole Miss and its new staff, so much so that he's emerging as a leading candidate to be Hugh Freeze's first commitment for 2013.

"I feel at home," Johnson said. "I feel like I'm loved and like I actually belong here. They just made me feel like I'm part of something special if I decide to come here."

Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke stopped by Byhalia hours after leaving Duke for his new job with the Rebels.

"He said I'm his top guy and the first offensive lineman he came to see," Johnson said. "The same thing with Coach Freeze. He told me I was the first junior he actually met. That made me feel very special."

Johnson said he likes Ole Miss' facilities as well as Oxford's proximity to home. Mississippi State and Alabama are in the picture, Johnson said, "but Ole Miss stands out right now."

Johnson said he likes Alabama's intensity and the way Mississippi State has come after him in a strong manner, but he said both programs' sales pitches feel "rehearsed."

Johnson said he wants to see how he gets along with the players on Ole Miss' roster and how well the Rebels' players and coaches adapt to him.

"They just need to show me they mean what they say," Johnson said. "Just be real and up front with me. That's about it."

If that happens, Johnson said, he is leaning toward announcing a quick decision.

"At first, I thought I wanted to go through the process for awhile, but now I think I want to make a decision early so I can focus on my grades and get my ACT score (16) and my GPA up (2.9)."

MOORE TAKING HIS TIME?: Rosedale, Miss., running back Kailo Moore committed to Ole Miss last fall but backed away from that commitment when Houston Nutt was fired.

Moore was at Ole Miss Saturday, giving Freeze and his new staff _ one bolstered in Moore's opinion by the re-hiring of running backs coach Derrick Nix _ a hard look.

"I think I'm going to go through the process, but if I get to know these coaches a little bit more the way I got to know the coaches from the previous (staff), I feel like it'll be an early commitment then," Moore said.

PACKAGE DEAL? Memphis (Whitehaven), Tenn., wide receiver Gerald Perry was getting the tour of Ole Miss from a familiar face Saturday. Ole Miss tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Maurice Harris is a former Memphis high school coach who maintains strong ties to the Bluff City.

"Me and Mr. Maurice, we're really close," Perry said. "I just want to come here and get him to teach me how to be a better ballplayer and get to the next level."

That could be huge news for Ole Miss, as Perry said Saturday he and teammate/running back Mark Dodson intend to attend the same college.

"Me and Mark Dodson are real close," Perry said. "We're like brothers, man. We're going to the same college and everything."

HODGE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF NAME: Mendenhall, Miss., quarterback Khadarel Hodge won't go to Ole Miss just because of his cousin's successful career at the school, but Shay Hodge's name and reputation in Oxford won't hurt the Rebels in their attempts to sign the former wide receiver's cousin, either.

"I don't see it as a factor, but it's really gotten my name out here a little bit just because he played up here," Khadarel Hodge said Saturday.

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