SDS talent evaluators Jon Cooper and Brad Crawford spent several months breaking down last year’s highlights, incoming talent and projected 2014 impact following spring practice to compile a list of the SEC’s Top 100 players heading into fall. Athletes were selected by position then ranked overall counting down to No. 1.
Stick with SDS throughout summer and get in on the action using the hashtag #SDSTop100 as we unveil a new player daily leading up to opening night on Aug. 28.
88. CJ Johnson, Jr., DE, Ole Miss
Feasting off the edge is what Johnson does best and he’ll get another two years worth of SEC dinner party invites should he choose after he was granted a medical hardship waiver in February. Johnson, a preseason All-SEC pick by several publications in 2013, started the Rebels’ first four games last fall before aggravating a leg injury that put him on the shelf, crippling what was expected to be one of the league’s best defensive fronts.
Coaches are never sure what to expect after a player returns from injury, but Johnson’s appeared to have regained his quickness and push that made him a force as a sophomore with 6.5 sacks two years ago. Johnson’s essential to the Rebels’ pass rush and creates quite the edge-sealing combo with Robert Nkemdiche against blue-collar rushing attacks at Alabama, LSU and Auburn.
Johnson’s last sack came on Nov. 24, 2012 against Mississippi St. when he pulled down Tyler Russell on a third-and-long in the fourth quarter. His emotions will be at an all-time high inside the Georgia Dome against Boise St. in the season opener and turning it down a notch during that first possession on defense won’t be possible for the potential all-conference end.
The Rebels will be able to determine quickly whether or not Johnson’s surgically-repaired ankle can withstand his high-octane level of play.
2013 statistics: Started first four games before leg injury ended his season.
2014 projection: 41 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 FF
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