The Hurry Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.
Princeton High School put on its media day on Pat Mencuso Field on Monday in Cincinnati, and as expected, Paris Johnson Jr. and Darrion Henry were available to talk. There was plenty to get caught up on, as both had submitted their applications to Ohio State at the beginning of the month, and Henry had committed just before Johnson flew to Frisco, Texas, for The Opening Finals.
These were some highlights surrounding a couple conversations Eleven Warriors had with Johnson, Henry and Princeton head coach Mike Daniels.
Paris Johnson Will Remain Committed to Ohio State
Henry has been adamant that he is remaining solid with his commitment to Ohio State, even going as far as tweeting that he is “1000% committed” after submitting his application in August. Before Monday, Johnson had remained as he always was – vague about how solid his commitment is.
He took his visits with Henry and Princeton linebacker Jaheim Thomas and tweeted photos after every visit. His caption on his Tennessee tweet had Buckeyes like Dwayne Haskins nervous about where his recruitment might be headed. They had a right to be nervous, as Johnson told the media at The Opening Finals that he nearly flipped to LSU and also considered Georgia at one point.
Now, though, he is solid in his commitment to Ohio State, he said.
“It does feel good,” Johnson told Eleven Warriors about submitting his application on Aug. 1. “Once I get that acceptance, it’s pretty much over at that point. Right now, I can say that I’m staying at Ohio State.”
That’s the closest the program has gotten to hearing him confirm his commitment since the day he committed, and as time goes on, he seems more and more linked to remaining within his verbal commitment. Once that letter comes, an announcement regarding his commitment likely won’t happen because that’s not in his nature, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him announce his acceptance into the University.
I mentioned in the Hurry Up on Aug. 1 that Henry had made his declaration about his commitment but that any confidence in Johnson’s commitment would need to come from him. This sentiment is what should put most Ohio State fans at ease.
Paris Johnson on Leaving St. Xavier
The news of Johnson’s transfer came out earlier this year, as the five-star offensive lineman moved from St. Xavier, where he spent his first three seasons, to Princeton, where his family graduated and where Henry and Thomas already played.
It’s a win-win scenario, since Johnson wants to enroll early. He said St. Xavier is not as accommodating with early graduation as a school like Princeton is.
“Once I told them that I was early-enrolling, there was pretty much no conversation between me and the coaches at that point,” Johnson said about St. Xavier. “I wasn’t able to lift with the team after that point.
“It was something I felt good about and I felt confident about – early-enrolling – and I wasn't going to let them stop me from early-enrolling.”
Johnson said his experience at Princeton is much different than it was at St. Xavier, all the way down to the football.
“We had to really focus in on how can we take down a really athletic team,” Johnson said. “Here, we have all the athletes. Once we put that scheme together, it’s pretty much over.”
Johnson’s mom and much of his family graduated from Princeton, and while Johnson said he gets some satisfaction out of putting on the uniform, his family probably feels more excitement about that factor than he does.
“This is probably a little bit more exciting for her than it is for me,” Johnson said. “Her and all my cousins and stuff, they’re all way more excited. I’m only going to be here for a semester, for my senior season. Then I’m going to Ohio State.”
Johnson, Henry Preparing Each Other for Ohio State
Henry and Johnson have been friends for a long time, and it’s clear that the roots run deep between the two, as they and Thomas were pitching themselves as a package deal a one point during the recruiting process. Now, they’re all on the same team, adding to Johnson’s experience at Princeton.
“I’ve got a great friend here too, a great teammate that’s going to push me in practice,” Johnson said. “I definitely did my sophomore year in Blake Bacevich, now at UC. Junior year, I didn’t have much to go against in practice. Now I’ve got the best defensive end and best linebacker in the state to go against every day.”
Both Henry and Johnson are pushing each other to improve before they get to Columbus in January. Johnson wants to improve his run-blocking, while Henry needs to improve his conditioning and his attack against Big Ten-level linemen. Johnson certainly is at a Big Ten level already.
Henry was able to bully his way around football fields as a sophomore, and as a junior, he added some finesse to his game, but as a senior, Johnson said he’s not allowing Henry to bully his way around practice when the two go head-to-head.
“Once he gets into the weight room, he might be able to get back to bullying people, but that’s not going to work against me,” Johnson said. “In practice against me, the only reps where he’s done good was when he needed to go back to finessing, knocking down the hands, moving his hips, because when he tries to run into me, I just sink down and the rep is over or I drive him all the way back outside. There was one time he got me because he had to fake his hands and all that, so he has to go back to that. It’s great that he learns that before he gets to Ohio State.”
Henry also provides the competition Johnson feels he needs to face in order to improve on his run-blocking. Unlike most high school tackles, Johnson has elite-level pass-blocking skills. He just needs to improve on his run-blocking before he gets to Ohio State.
“My pass-blocking game – I feel like that’s my best game right there,” Johnson said. “That’s because at St. X, all we did was pass the ball. And pull. My pulling game is great. If we weren’t passing, I was pulling. The run-game is something I can improve on. My pass game is really strong. And I talk to NFL guys, and they say, ‘That’s where you make your money at.’ So I’m glad I’ve got that part down.”
But working against the top defensive end in the state isn’t making things easy. In what Daniels describes as a “historic class” at Princeton in the 2020 players, there are top-level reps happening on the edge every day.
That’s a big positive in the move for Johnson, who said he remembers days when he used to block defenders with one hand.
“For me, there were times where I could block some guys with one hand,” Johnson said. “I remember at La Salle, I just threw them over with one hand.”
Darrion Henry is Back to Full Health
Henry suffered a shoulder injury that hobbled him for part of the 2018 season. He got surgery in mid-December, and the recovery was expected to take five months. That put him back on a football field in mid-May, but he wasn’t able to get back into full action until July, when he got into the weight room, lifting with the team in an organized fashion for the first time.
That means, during Ohio State’s one-day camp in June, when he appeared to be slower and more timid than usual, he wasn’t even supposed to be participating.
“I’m just working on getting in shape,” Henry told Eleven Warriors on Monday. “Getting my body the best it can be going in. I want to get to the point where it doesn’t take much to get to the peak. Just doing the best I can to get my body back to what it was before I got surgery.”