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Avery Johnson is leaving no doubt.
Just in case it wasn’t already clear that the four-star recruit from Maize is one of the top high school quarterbacks in the country, he validated his skills in a major way last week when he qualified for one of the nation’s most prestigious passing competitions — the Elite 11 finals.
Previous competitors include Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young and many other Heisman Trophy contenders. In the final week of June, Johnson will fly to Los Angeles and get his turn to compete for the title of top QB in his recruiting class.
“It’s really a childhood dream come true,” Johnson said. “Growing up I always watched it on TV and now they have got their little series going on YouTube. It is always something I have looked forward to. Just getting the chance to compete in the regional was big for me. Then when I ended up making the finals it was really exciting. It’s a big milestone for me.”
Johnson juggled several activities as he worked toward this. The four-sport athlete recently finished baseball season at Maize and he is now preparing to run in the 4x100 meter relay at the state track meet.
Oh, and he’s also trying to narrow down his list of college choices. That suddenly feels like a 24 hour job. Many schools took notice when the 6-foot-2 and 173-pound athlete posted the second highest QB rating at an Elite 11 regional camp in Nashville last week.
LSU, Miami, Michigan, Texas A&M, UCLA and Vanderbilt have all recently sent coaches or scheduled trips to Wichita to try and get involved with Johnson’s recruitment before he makes a public commitment, ideally late next month before he leaves for Los Angeles on June 28.
“I feel like it has given some recruiters and reporters a better perspective on me,” Johnson said. “Not a lot of people think I can spin the ball in an environment like that, a camp setting with other great quarterbacks. But I went out and proved I can throw the ball just as well as I can run it. That was really big for me. I never doubted myself. I’ve always known I could spin it with the best quarterbacks in the country, but it felt good to go out there and prove it to everybody else.”
It will be interesting to see if any of the six new schools recruiting Johnson will follow through with scholarship offers and seriously challenge for his commitment.
Johnson seems to have two favorites at the moment in Kansas State and Oregon, but he says he is also talking with Virginia and Washington.
One school he has more or less eliminated from contention is Kansas.
“They still reach out to me pretty frequently,” Johnson said, “but I’m not very high on Kansas anymore.”
He has an official recruiting visit lined up with Oregon on June 17 and recently took an unofficial visit to K-State, where he watched an entire spring practice and then talked with offensive coordinator Collin Klein and head coach Chris Klieman for several hours.
Johnson hopes to make it back to Manhattan soon, perhaps for an official visit, but he may choose to drive up on his own dime if there are five other schools he wants to explore.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with Kansas State in terms of an official visit, but I am really high on Kansas State. They’re one of my top schools,” Johnson said. “Coach Klein has been to my school three times this spring and he checks on me every day with motivational texts. Same thing with Coach Klieman. He’s always reaching out and telling me how much they want me to be a Cat.”
Watching Klein direct K-State’s offense in practice was also a positive for Johnson.
“I’ve always loved the no huddle,” Johnson said. “I am an up-tempo guy, so that is very appealing. I really like what they’re doing right now on offense.”
But Johnson is also impressed by what’s going on in Oregon under new head coach Dan Lanning.
Johnson has a strong relationship with Ducks offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who previously offered him when he worked at Florida State, and Oregon has an exciting brand. When he toured Eugene, Oregon on an unofficial visit, he quickly decided it was a place he wanted to see again.
“I always liked Oregon when I was growing up,” Johnson said. “It was mostly because of their uniforms, but they were also one of the top teams in the nation. Now that I’m getting into the whole recruiting thing with them I can say I love Coach Dillingham and I got a chance to talk to Coach Lanning. I like him as well. I want to get out there one more time and see if I can really see myself ending up there.”
Perhaps a few new schools will also convince him to visit their campuses. Or maybe Johnson will end up choosing between K-State and Oregon.
He has plenty of good options now that he has proven his skills on a national stage.