BAXLEY, Ga. (WSAV) – Not many players are happier about the start of a new football season than Appling County’s Jaylen Johnson.

The standout Pirate running back missed a large chunk of the 2021-’22 season with a back injury. He returned to the field in late October and immediately stood out with a pair of 100-yard, 2-touchdown performances in his remaining four games.

Johnson initially burst onto the recruiting scene as a sophomore, when he gained more than 1,000 all-purpose yards.

He is a three-star rated prospect, according to 247Sports, and has an impressive list of offers that include Tennessee, Florida State, Arkansas and Georgia Southern.

WSAV caught up with Johnson to talk about his expectations for the upcoming season with Appling County and his timetable for making a college commitment.

Transcript has been lightly edited for grammar, syntax and clarity.

Q: Coming into this year, what are some of the biggest strengths of Appling County’s team?

A: Definitely experience-wise, we got a young group here, we lost a lot of seniors last year. We’ve got young guys that are going to have to step up this year and I think they can get the job done.

Q: Who are some of the young guys that you think could make an impact this year?

A: I think number 1, Jamarion Williams, he’ll step up this year a great deal. Our quarterback, Dayson Griffis, he’s a young guy, he’s going into 10th grade, so he’ll be good for us. At corner, we had two seniors starting last year that we lost, so we have two guys that are going to have to start this year.

Q: You dealt with some kind of injury last year, right? Would you mind describing it?

A: I just hurt my back. It took me out of the game for some time. I ain’t gonna say too much about that.

Q: Sure. Do you feel rested and ready to go for this year?

A: Yes, most definitely.

Q: How good does it feel to be back close to 100 percent and on the field after missing some time last year?

A: With the back, it feels good to be back out there. It’s a blessing to come back from that.

Q: If you had to give a kind of scouting report on yourself, what kind of runner are you?

A: I think I’m an elusive runner. If I’ve got to truck you I will, but I like to make people miss.

Q: Do you have a favorite touchdown run or play from your time at Appling?

A: It’s always been pitch or outside zone for me.

Q: For your recruitment, can you describe some of the schools that have reached out to you?

A: Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Michigan State, Florida State and more.

I’ve been to a good bit of visits. I’ve been to Florida State about four times, Tennessee once, South Carolina about three or four times.

Q: On those visits, was there a memory or moment that stood out to you?

A: I played putt-putt with Josh Heupel at Tennessee and beat him. I don’t even play putt-putt usually.

Q: Do you have a date in mind to cut your list down, make a decision, anything like that? Have you thought that far ahead?

A: I want to make a decision before our playoffs start.

Q: When you think about the school you want to go, what’s important to you? What are the top factors you’re looking for?

A: Relationships with the coaches, education, I want to get a good education wherever I go. I want to feel like they need me, not that they just want me. I want to feel love, like it’s home for me.

Q: What are some of the most common things you hear from college coaches about yourself?

A: They say I can play whatever position I want on offense. I’m more than just a running back, I can catch out of the backfield, I’m a three-down back. Special teams, punt return, kickoff returns, just get me the ball. That’s what they’re all saying.