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Starkville's Johnson attracting late interest


David Miller



STARKVILLE -- Unlike most of his senior teammates, Jaquez Johnson''s college football future remains uncertain. 


The Starkville High School quarterback has seen his college recruitment move at a slower pace than expected following a breakout year in which he scored 31 touchdowns.  


The Dispatch''s Large Schools Offensive Player of the Year has had an obvious hurdle following shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.  


He was scheduled to visit the University of Memphis and had interest from the University of Alabama at Birmingham before both schools backed off.  


As of Thursday, Johnson''s only offer was from East Mississippi Community College. 


Johnson admits he''s surprised he hasn''t garnered more interest from colleges. 


"I understand where they''re coming from, though," Johnson said. "They can''t put their money on someone if they don''t know they''re healthy. I''m not mad." 


Johnson said he''s out of the sling and will probably start throwing again March 9. 


Johnson visited EMCC on Thursday and said he''ll end up there if he doesn''t receiver an offer from a four-year university. 


National signing day is Wednesday. 


Johnson played safety and special teams for the Yellow Jackets this season and could see his versatility lead to a late offer.  


Louisiana-Monroe is interested in Johnson playing outside linebacker, and Louisiana Tech visited Johnson on Wednesday.  


"I''m eager to see how both of those work out," Starkville football coach Jamie Mitchell said. "I talked to Louisiana-Monroe twice yesterday. It''s bad, bad late, but there is still action going with him. I don''t think it''ll be an outside stretch if he ends up at one of those two." 


If Johnson lands at EMCC, he''ll follow in the footsteps of Brad Henderson, his predecessor at Starkville High. Henderson started at quarterback for the Lions last season and will play at Northwestern (La.) next season.  


Johnson also would join offensive lineman Jarrod Atterberry and linebacker DJ Jordan. His favorite target, Shaquille Hill, could sign with EMCC on Wednesday, Mitchell said.  


Jordan turned down an offer from Alcorn State and hopes to improve his stock at EMCC. 


Running back Garrett Smith is expected to sign with Northeast Community College.  


The Yellow Jackets have a pair of players headed to four-year schools in Louisiana-Lafayette pledge Chris Prater and Tennessee State commitment Martavius Foster.  


Prater, who played offensive tackle and defensive end this season, benefited from the knowledge new ULL head coach Mark Hudspeth has of this area. Hudspeth spent two seasons as a coach on Dan Mullen''s staff at Mississippi State. 


Prater chose ULL partly because of its engineering program, Mitchell said, adding a redshirt season will help 


"Chris has so much upscale," Mitchell said. "He''s 6-4, 230, but could very easily wake up tomorrow and be 260, 270. He''s got that kind of body, and he''ll put that weight on in that first year. 


"His first two steps are just outstanding, and he''s excited when he gets that first foot in the ground. I look for big things from him after that first year." 


Foster visited TSU recently and was blown away by the campus, facilities, and the chance to live in Nashville. 


"They play in a pro stadium and have a good weight program," Foster said. "They showed us the locker rooms they had just built for a couple hundred thousand, too. I just wanted to play college football, and what better place is there to do it?" 


Foster said MSU and Southern Miss are still interested, though they haven''t offered because Foster just took his ACT. TSU offered before he had the qualifying score, and he intends to honor his commitment.  


MSU is set to visit Foster today. 






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