Rookie T.J. Johnson has found a friend in Travelle Wharton

Bengals rookie and center T.J. Johnson is facing a long climb at center behind two starters, but he's already found a friend in the NFL.

When the Bengals selected South Carolina University center T.J. Johnson, we were slightly taken aback. And it had nothing to do with Johnson. Our perspective surrounded the necessity of adding another center to a position already jam-packed with two starters. From Kyle Cook to Trevor Robinson, and even Tanner Hawkinson who is being touted as the team's most versatile offensive lineman, taking part in drills at all five positions during the rookie minicamp last month, Johnson's chances appear minimal.

Yet he'll have his opportunities with Robinson expected to miss most of the offseason training sessions, allowing Johnson significant participation as the backup center behind first-team center Cook.

"OTAs are non-contact and everybody’s here so it’s kind of a full-speed walkthrough, but I guess the main difference so far has been the competition," Johnson told "Everybody’s good here; everybody’s fast. The complexity of the scheme is a lot more complex in the components of it."

"The center has a ton of calls to make, and I feel like that’s first and foremost the priority," Johnson said. "As far as learning the techniques and how the coaches want things done, I think that’s what it would take [to move up the depth chart]."

Through all of it, Johnson has found a friend with a former Gamecock in Travelle Wharton, writes Josh Bell.

"He left a few years before I came in but I knew him because he was always hanging around the program [in the offseason] even after he left," said Johnson.

"So after I got drafted [Wharton] called me and he’s been a real big help since I’ve been here, as far as giving me advice on things and just being someone there to talk to about things, so that’s been pretty nice."

Johnson's high school coach Jody Jenerette, who provided tremendous praise for Johnson, compared him to Jeff Saturday.

"Jeff Saturday, that’s a great comparison, and I’ve heard that before, obviously Saturday was a late pick, and you can just tell when Jeff Saturday is snapping to Peyton Manning, or when he did, back in the day, that he’s a very sharp, intelligent guy. When Peyton Manning called audible after audible, Saturday knew exactly what he was supposed to do. T.J. [could be that] kind of guy that with Andy Dalton, who is also a pretty sharp guy from what I’ve gathered, so I think that’s a real similar comparison."

Save for the obvious injuries that are impossible to project, Johnson appears to be an practice squad candidate.

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