CB target D.J. Johnson has 'best visit' at Notre Dame's Irish Invasion

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

D.J. Johnson’s performance at the Irish Invasion camp Saturday night didn’t end as planned, but an ankle injury didn’t prevent the 2018 cornerback target from enjoying his Notre Dame visit.

“It was really nice,” Johnson said. “I liked it up there. I had a really good time. That was the best visit I've been on so far."

Johnson, a 6-foot, 170-pound product of Indianapolis North Central, arrived on campus Saturday afternoon and stayed in South Bend until Sunday afternoon. During the camp, Johnson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds with a brace on his left ankle. He ended the night with ice wrapped around it.

Re-aggravating a sprained ankle was only a small blip in an enlightening weekend for Johnson. After all, he had already received a scholarship offer from the Irish in May. The camp was just another opportunity to prove himself and compete.

“It was run well,” Johnson said. “The coaches definitely coached us hard and taught us a lot. It was really cool."

In addition to the camp, Notre Dame organized a recruiting event on Sunday for prospects to get to know the Irish a little bit better.

“I got to see the whole campus, meet the entire strength staff and entire coaching staff,” Johnson said. “I got to see all of their facilities and the things they're going to do. I got to talk about their academics and things like that. I was able to learn a lot about Notre Dame while I was up there, so I'm glad I went up there."

Johnson had previously visited Notre Dame twice last season for games, but the Irish Invasion experience was much different.

“We actually sat around, ate together and played cornhole and things like that,” Johnson said. “It wasn't like a recruiting visit. It was more like building a relationship."

Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston have spent the most time communicating with Johnson to build relationships.

"I really like coach Lyght,” Johnson said. “He's a good guy, and I can tell he's a good coach. He has a lot of experience. Being coached by him would definitely help me in the long run as a man and as a player. He was a legend at Notre Dame, so that would be really cool to be coached by him.

"Coach Elston's really cool. We talk a lot. He seems like he's down-to-earth. He keeps it all the way 100 with you. He'll let you know off the bat what it is and what it's not."

Together, Lyght and Elston have presented a future at Notre Dame that’s appealing to Johnson.

“Notre Dame would be a great opportunity for me,” Johnson said. “It's definitely close to home. It's in my home state. They didn't take any corners in their last class, so I could definitely come in and play as a freshman. And their academics are off the charts. Notre Dame's definitely one of the schools at the top of my list."

Johnson’s recruitment is shaping up to be a Midwest battle. Five Big Ten programs have extended Johnson scholarship offers: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Purdue.

247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 29 cornerback in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 37 cornerback.

Johnson had planned to visit Ohio State on Tuesday, but that trip remained in doubt Monday. A visit to Iowa is on the schedule for this weekend, and trips to Michigan State and Cincinnati could happen later this month.

As Johnson’s recruitment has evolved, his sense for a commitment timeline has too.

"I was thinking about making my decision right after the (upcoming) season, but a lot of things are starting to change,” Johnson said. “I'm not sure if I'm going to make it earlier, but after these visits I'll know."

So what changed?

“I feel like some schools are starting to take me more serious,” Johnson said. “I can come in and make a bigger impact at some of the schools that I'm starting to visit. If I go to a school and visit and feel like it's the right place for me, I might make a decision earlier."

The earlier might be the better for Notre Dame.

D.J. Johnson runs during Irish Invasion Saturday, June 10, 2017, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN