Cienega Bobcats receiver Terrence Johnson takes a hand-off during a drill at practice. “He’s explosive, he’s fast, he’s big, he’s tall. He’s a Pac-12 football prospect,” says Cienega coach Nemer Hassey.

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Since the beginning of August and through Friday, the Star is featuring some of Southern Arizona’s top high school football players to watch this fall. Our series continues today with Cienega’s Terrence Johnson, arguably the top college football prospect in Southern Arizona.

Terrence Johnson

The rundown: Terrence Johnson, WR/SS, 6-3, 190, Cienega, senior

Who he is: Johnson fits the mold of what coaches want from a safety. He’s big, has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash and sets the tone for an entire defense with thunderous hits. After a summer of playing basketball, the two-sport star has transitioned from the non-stop, change-of-pace movement in hoops, to more sprints and weight training needed for the gridiron season. Cienega coach Nemer Hassey remembers meeting Johnson at a football camp when he was an eighth-grader in the Vail School District. Although Johnson had played football since age 9, he wasn’t playing at the time, but Hassey noticed his natural athleticism and knew he had potential. Johnson’s speed makes him a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Last season, he wasn’t the main option on offense but scored four TDs, all of which were at least 33 yards and as long as 69. Cienega quarterback Adriell Alvarado said Johnson’s large frame gives him a much bigger window, and his athleticism allows him to get the football, wherever it is. This season, Hassey will move Johnson from running back to slot to the outside receiver. Meanwhile, Johnson said he hopes to be more of a ballhawk at safety. Entering his third season on varsity and second as a starter, Johnson has been working on his route running in order to make more catches than the 17 he had in 2013 as the second option behind Christian Poe, now a freshman at Army.

Proof he’s good: The attention. Johnson has received scholarship offers from the UA, San Diego State, UC-Davis and Montana. He also has sparked interest from Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA. As a guard on the Cienega basketball team, Johnson averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on a team that reached the state semifinals. Though Johnson has always had basketball to hold onto, he kept working at football. During his sophomore season he played sparingly at safety. Toward the end of the season, coaches put Johnson in at safety for three plays against Douglas and realized what he was capable of doing. He also displayed another capability when he once threw a football 60 yards in practice.

He said it: “Believe it or not, he can throw the football, too. He can play quarterback if he wanted to. He’s a kid you throw it to, hand it to, you want to get him the ball every way you can get him the ball, and be creative with it. He’s explosive, he’s fast, he’s big, he’s tall. He’s a Pac-12 football prospect.” — Hassey