Wednesday, July 04, 2007

the Portland Powerhouse | by Jay

By now you probably know that Ethan Johnson, one of the most dynamic defensive recruits in the country this year, has committed to Notre Dame. The 6'4, 265 pound defensive end from Portland, Oregon is the latest to join a growing list of standout players who have picked the Irish.

Just to add a few notes to some of the effusive profiles (in the SBT, the Oregonian, Scout, Rivals) already out there...

• Johnson's a five-star recruit on Scout (our second this year, after Kyle Rudolph), listed as Scout's 24th-best player in the country, and he's a four-star on Rivals and the 48th-best overall. ESPN appears to reworking its rankings at the moment, but they have him on their top 150 watchlist. It's no exagerration to say that Johnson is probably the top-rated defensive recruit (according to the recruiting services) the Irish have landed since Victor Abiamiri five years ago.

• The choice came down to Southern Cal, Michigan and ND. In fact, Johnson was the one of the most sought-after players by the Trojans, and had earned the top camper medal from GoBlueWolverine after the Michigan summer camp just before he committed to the Irish.

• EJ was second team in the Portland Interscholastic League as a sophomore; first team all-PIL as a junior.

• One of the better pieces on Johnson comes from Jeremy Crabtree on Rivals, who highlighted Johnson's superlatives both on and off the field.

[Johnson's] only going to get better and better if you ask Johnson's coach, Chad Carlson. "He's a big-time jumbo defensive end," the coach said. "His speed coming around the corner is extremely good. He's got that high end motor and he's got the long arms to keep guys off of him. He's learning how to use that body weight with leverage. Right now it's just about getting even quicker. When he does, he'll be unstoppable."

"I'm not just a football player," Johnson said. "I hope to grow up to be an investor with a company in the Fortune 500 someday. I want to take business management in college and make something of myself, even if football doesn't pan out down the road."
• EJ's defensive line coach is Shawn Price, a 10-year NFL veteran who finished his professional career with the San Diego Chargers in 2002.

• In the end, why did Johnson pick ND, from all the way across the country, and over the tremendous Trojans? Scout had an enlightening, in-depth interview with his coach Chad Carlson (subscription only) which sheds some light on his thought process. From the looks of it Johnson was really impressed with the academic atmosphere on campus, the focus from ND coaches on attracting "high character" guys, and above all, the chance to play for Charlie Weis, who lit out on the Oregon Trail for a personal appearance at Lincoln High and made quite a memorable impression on both the talented lineman and his coaches.

After coming up short on true defensive linemen in the last two recruiting classes (one, Ian Williams, last year, and none the year before that), this year we're landing an embarrasment of gappers and pluggers. It's like a entire depth chart unto itself: Sean Cwynar, Hafis Williams, Brandon Newman, Omar Hunter, and now Ethan Johnson, a one-class curtain of pain, all comin' at you at once. Like all great defensive units (the Purple People Eaters, for example, or the Fearsome Foursome) I think these guys are going to need an intimidating nickname before it's all said and done.