Former East Ridge defensive back Kennar Johnson is headed to Georgia via Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. (COURTESY MGCCC)
When Kennar Johnson, Tereseo Guevara and Mike Weed left Clermont East Ridge High School in 2010, they headed west for California and a little two-year school named Reedley College, just southeast of Fresno.
They did fine, with each earning a starting job during their freshman seasons, but things didn’t work out. Neither player liked the situation and they all three eventually left the school.
Weed transferred to the University of Memphis as a walk-on quarterback, which is where he remains.
Guevara is still trying to latch on somewhere.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound safety, made the biggest strides. He moved on to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where he played this past season for the Bulldogs, recording 34 tackles in 11 games as a safety.
Georgia coaches noticed, and it didn’t take long for Johnson to commit to the ’Dawgs in November during his official visit. In fact, he committed while he was at head coach Mark Richt’s house.
“I’m excited about it. It’s time for me to move on and get past my junior-college phase,” Johnson said recently from his parents’ home in Clermont. “I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things. I’m excited about that. I’m ready.”
Actually, he’s been ready. He thought he would be strolling around the Athens campus by now, anticipating spring practice as an early enrollee this semester. He was all set. He crammed in 25 credit hours over the regular and summer sessions, graduated in December and then had the admittance door slammed in his face.
“In three semesters I got my associate’s degree, but they wouldn’t allow me to enroll early,” Johnson said. “I had everything set and I was ready to go. All my coaches thought I was coming in and then they seized my transcript and said I can’t enroll yet.”
It’s unclear exactly what the hold-up is with Johnson’s enrollment, but for now he has to wait to arrive in Athens this summer.
He has had a rather topsy-turvy career that started its crazy path when, according to Johnson, he was headed to Miami out of East Ridge High as a senior.
“Coming out of high school I was originally supposed to go to the University of Miami, but when head coach Randy Shannon got fired, everything changed,” he said. “I want to prove it was no mistake I was committed there. I’m going to prove that.”
Leaving Reedley for MGC was a key decision in his progress.
“It helped a lot. That school is probably the best junior college you can go to, recruitment-wise,” Johnson said. “You’re going to get recruited and you’re going to graduate. They are going to get you ready for the next level. For me going to Gulf Coast was best the best thing that could have happened for my career.”
Offers poured in for the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, who played cornerback mostly at MGC, but will try to fill a big void Georgia will have at safety.
“I had offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, USF, Iowa State, West Virginia, a lot more … schools all over the place,” he said. “Once I got to a school like Gulf Coast, recruiters came to watch practice and watch me. When they noticed me, they were all like: ‘Where’s this guy been all along?’ “
He had plenty of options from which to choose a college, but Georgia was the best fit, he said.
“It was kinda like Christmas and opening gifts,” Johnson said of all the offers. “It was like, which one do you open first. But once I got to comparing all the schools it was pretty easy. I’m satisfied with my decision and I’m happy I made decision that I did.”
Coach Richt and assistants Scott Lakatos and Tony Bell stopped in to see Johnson recently at his Clermont home, which helped give him some reassurance that he was still wanted.
“I’m at home just working out every day,” Johnson said. “They came to the house to make sure I’m fine and to make sure I still wanted to go to their school. That comforted me. They were just as mad as I was about me not being able to come in early.”
During his senior year at East Ridge, Johnson had 85 tackles, three interceptions, nine pass breakups and one defensive touchdown.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.