Offensive tackle recruit Caleb Johnson flips verbal commitment from Auburn to Notre Dame

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Consider Caleb Johnson indoctrinated.

The 6-foot-7, 295-pound recruit compared Notre Dame’s offensive line to a cult in a March interview with the Tribune. If it wasn’t clear he meant that comparison as a compliment, it should be now.

On Thursday, Johnson announced his commitment to the Irish. The Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic offensive tackle flipped his verbal pledge from Auburn after being committed since June.

“They were the most tight-knit group of guys ever,” Johnson told the Tribune in April. “They’ve got an offensive linemen cult group. They’ve got like a religious group. They’re awesome.”

Talking with Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn brought Johnson to that conclusion. Quinn told Johnson about how his sophomore offensive line class became inseparable despite being on campus together for less than two years.

Now Johnson will connect with his own offensive line class, joining Irish commits Blake Fisher, Rocco Spindler, Pat Coogan and Joe Alt. Notre Dame’s 23-player class overall ranks No. 7 and No. 10 nationally on 247Sports and Rivals, respectively.

247Sports considers Johnson to be a four-star recruit, ranking him as its No. 29 offensive tackle and No. 260 overall player in the 2021 class. Rivals values Johnson as a three-star offensive tackle, ranking him No. 34 at the position this cycle.

The Irish coaching staff appeared to be content with a four-man offensive line class after landing verbal pledges from Fisher (June 2019), Coogan (April), Alt (July) and Spindler (August). But unforeseen roster attrition figured to open a few more spots for them in 2021.

They have been more aggressive in the past few months and landed four commits in the past four days: cornerback Philip Riley, placekicker Joshua Bryan, linebacker Kahanu Kia and Johnson.

With Johnson, he started hearing again from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and Quinn recently. They were not deterred that Johnson committed to Auburn in May. He showed interest in the Irish long before they offered him a scholarship in March.

Johnson attended Homestead High in Fort Wayne, Ind., before relocating to Florida. His mother, Beth, is from Muncie, Ind. His father, Aaron, played football for Ball State. The Johnson's still have plenty of family and friends in the Hoosier State.

In 2019, Johnson visited Notre Dame twice: once in April and again for the USC game in October. The coronavirus pandemic ruined his plans of returning to South Bend in June 2020. But now Johnson will be able to call Indiana home once again by joining Quinn’s cult.

“I think he’s a great coach,” Johnson told the Tribune in April. “What he’s doing over there is awesome. We watched a ton of film on a bunch of his linemen destroying dudes. That was fun to watch, because there are no sports really going on right now.”

Notre Dame will look to add more to its 2021 class. The following 2021 recruits are still being pursued by the Irish: defensive end Kelvin Gilliam (Oklahoma commit), cornerbacks Ceyair Wright and Theran Johnson, running backs Byron Cardwell and Donovan Edwards, and safety Titus Mokiao-Atimalala.

Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic's Caleb Johnson, a four-star offensive line recruit in the 2021 class, committed to Notre Dame on Nov. 19, 2020.