2025 Georgia Prospect James Johnson Wants to Play Both Ways in College, Says He Was “Happy” to Get an Ohio State Offer

By Garrick Hodge on February 3, 2024 at 8:35 am
James Johnson

When Ohio State safeties coach Matt Guerrieri was hired on Jan. 10, less than a week later, he was out on the recruiting trail.

One of the first prospects he visited was Georgia 2025 safety James Johnson, who was the first player Guerrieri extended an offer to in his OSU tenure when he stopped by Douglas County High School (Douglasville, Georgia) on Jan. 16.

“He said I was his first stop on the road and the very first person he came to see,” Johnson told Eleven Warriors of Guerrieri. “He said he was very interested in me and told me about the campus and everything. It meant a lot that (I was the first prospect he offered). I was the very first person, it could have been anyone else, but instead, it was me.” 

Johnson doesn’t hold a 247Sports composite ranking as of yet, but he has collected more than 30 Division I offers, including Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, Florida State, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Liberty, LSU, Memphis, Mississippi State, Miami, Missouri, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Texas, Tennessee, USC, UCF, Washington and West Virginia. He said the offer from Ohio State definitely stood out to him, though.

“It was big,” Johnson said of his offer. “I’ve been watching Ohio State ever since I was little. I love their colors and I love the school. I have some family that are big fans so I was really happy to get the offer.” 

The 6-foot, 175-pound Johnson isn’t your cut-and-dry recruit, though. Johnson is a two-way player for Douglas County and has several offers to play wide receiver. When Guerrieri stopped in to offer Johnson, he asked his positional preference. Johnson didn’t want to limit himself.

“He asked me which position I wanted to play. I told him I want to go both ways,” Johnson said. 

A college athlete being a successful two-way player is very rare in the modern era. But it’s also not completely unheard of, as evidenced by Colorado’s Travis Hunter playing both cornerback and wide receiver last season. Ohio State, whose most recent consistent two-way player was Chris Gamble back in the early 2000s, isn’t ruling out Johnson playing both sides for now. 

“He told me that I could do that,” Johnson said. 

In Johnson’s junior season, he recorded 68 tackles (3 for loss), seven pass deflections, a fumble recovery and an interception. Offensively, he caught 40 passes for 770 yards with eight touchdowns, while rushing for 497 yards on 41 carries with 18 rushing touchdowns. He even threw three passing touchdowns, completing five of seven passes for 227 yards.

“I take a lot of pride in playing both ways,” Johnson said. “I’ve been doing it since I was little. It’s something I have a lot of fun doing.” 

OSU had been on Johnson’s radar before the offer, but he was previously in contact with former safeties coach Perry Eliano before his departure from the Buckeyes’ staff. It’s likely OSU envisions his best fit at the next level at safety, but Johnson is fully confident in his abilities and has paid attention to the players Ohio State has produced at both positions.

“That’s where they make the best wide receivers and defensive backs,” Johnson said of the biggest reason he’d be interested in playing for OSU one day. 

“I haven’t made a top anything yet, but they’re definitely in the top for me.”

Johnson said he plans to visit OSU sometime this spring but doesn’t have a specific date yet. The two-way prospect wants to narrow his recruitment down this summer and make a commitment shortly afterward, though he’s unattached to any specific commitment date. 

“I’m looking for a brotherhood and a school that will treat me like family and welcome me in,” Johnson said of the biggest factor in his recruitment. “I want to feel comfortable and have a good bond with the coaches.”

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