3-Star DB Recruit Makes Arkansas Decision Contrary to Coach’s Gut Instinct

Ahkhari Johnson, Arkansas football, Arkansas recruiting
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Just days after being treated like a priority on his official visit, Ahkhari Johnson decided to shut down his recruitment and commit to Arkansas football on Wednesday.

The three-star athlete out of Pleasant Grove High in Texarkana, Texas, didn’t plan to commit until sometime before his senior year and had other visits planned, but the Razorbacks sped up the process when they hosted him last week.

It turns out he still made his decision “sometime before this season starts,” like he told reporters following his official visit, but it was just way sooner than expected.

That’s good news for the Razorbacks, who have now gained 12 commitments in the 2024 class — a number that includes three-star defensive tackle Dion Stutts, who tragically died in an ATV accident earlier this week, and Bentonville wide receiver CJ Brown, who committed a day after Johnson.

Among those players are five players whose designated position on Rivals is “athlete,” showing a clear trend of Arkansas pursuing versatile and athletic players capable of playing multiple positions.

With defensive backs coaches Marcus Woodson and Deron Wilson serving as his primary recruiters, Johnson is viewed as a cornerback for the Razorbacks, but he also plays quarterback at Pleasant Grove.

The Recruitment of Ahkhari Johnson

Thanks to a broken arm just six plays into his sophomore season, Ahkhari Johnson didn’t really start picking up traction on the recruiting trail until this past year.

As a junior, though, he showcased the athleticism that has landed him numerous offers from Division I schools.

Pleasant Grove went 11-3 and reached the Class 4A-DII quarterfinals with Johnson running the offense at quarterback. He threw for 1,710 yards and 21 touchdowns with only three interceptions, plus added another 856 yards and 12 scores on 117 carries, while also playing defensive back.

It wasn’t until November that Johnson received his first Power Five offer, from Texas Tech. That got the ball rolling and Arkansas entered the mix on Jan. 25.

He took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville in March, but Oklahoma State got his first official visit in mid-April. It was during that trip that his high school teammate, three-star athlete Jaylen Boardley, committed to the Cowboys. That led Pleasant Grove head coach Josh Gibson to believe Oklahoma State was the frontrunner in his recruitment, as well.

However, following his official visit to Arkansas over the weekend, Johnson announced his commitment to the Razorbacks despite having plans to officially visit TCU and Stanford later this month. Those visits likely won’t happen now.

“His recruitment really flipped,” Gibson told the Texarkana Gazette. “I would have said there was an 80% chance he would have gone to Oklahoma State.”

Similar Names, Different Games

Even though he popped up on the Razorbacks’ radar less than five months ago, Ahkhari Johnson’s commitment announcement might have felt like deja vu to Arkansas football fans.

That’s because Arkansas literally just had another defensive back named Khari Johnson, who spent three years in Fayetteville before transferring to Boston College this offseason.

Despite the fact that they play the same position and have very similar names, they are definitely different players.

Khari Johnson was a two-star recruit on some services and a low three-star on others. He was a product of the northeast — he’s from Boston and attended an academy in Connecticut for high school — and didn’t receive much attention as a recruit.

A late addition to Arkansas’ 2020 class, which ranked 41st nationally by Rivals, Johnson’s only offers at the time of his commitment were from the likes of Akron, Navy and several FCS programs.

Ahkhari Johnson, on the other hand, is a high three-star recruit at a well-known high school program in Texas, which is traditionally the most fertile recruiting ground for Arkansas.

Although he’s somewhat of a late bloomer, he has yet to take a snap as a senior and already has offers from 15 Power Five programs. The Razorbacks had to beat out the likes of TCU, Oklahoma State and Stanford to land his commitment.

What Johnson Means to Arkansas Football

New secondary coaches Marcus Woodson and Deron Wilson have made quick work on the recruiting trail since being hired this offseason.

Ahkhari Johnson is at least the third defensive back to commit to Arkansas football in the 2024 class. He joins four-star cornerback Jaden Allen from Texas and mid-tier three-star cornerback Tevis Metcalf from Alabama.

There’s a chance that four-star athlete JuJu Pope from Mississippi could end up in the secondary in college, but he’s probably a linebacker at this point.

That’s a pretty solid core of defensive backs considering the six-man group Arkansas just signed in the 2023 class, which was highlighted by four-star cornerback Jaylon Braxton and four-star safety TJ Metcalf.

It’s also worth noting that Johnson gives the Razorbacks another player from Pleasant Grove, as current defensive end and LSU transfer Landon Jackson went to that high school.

Jackson and Johnson actually played together when the latter was a freshman. Now Johnson is playing with Jackson’s younger brother, Lance Jackson, who happens to be one of the top players in the country for 2025.

Ranked inside the top 100 overall recruits by Rivals, the younger Jackson already has offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas and many other Power Five programs.

Johnson has already acknowledged that having a former teammate at Arkansas made him feel even more comfortable with the school, so perhaps his presence could help when the second Jackson makes his decision in the future.

Check out some highlights of Arkansas football commit Ahkhari Johnson from his junior season:


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