Jimmy Johns Making A Move

From the day he committed to sign with Alabama, Jimmy Johns has been an intriguing personality for Crimson Tide football fans. The one time quarterback, tailback, fullback and special teams player is now going to get a crack at a different position.

It's not known if Alabama junior Jimmy Johns will be ready to give his new position a chance in the Independence Bowl game against Colorado. In fact, Johns himself said if he's not completely ready to go when Bama opens the 2008 football season that a redshirt season "is on the table."

Johns had finished a very productive freshman season in 2005. The former Mr. Football in Mississippi had reported to the Crimson Tide and almost immediately found playing time on special teams. He then made his way to tailback, backing up Kenneth Darby. Johns finished as the team's second-leading rusher, but was best known for a special teams play. In a tight game at Starkville, Johns forced a fumble in coverage on the second half kickoff. The ball was picked up by Matt Miller and run in for a touchdown to help key the Crimson Tide victory.,

After the season in an interview with 'BAMA Magazine, Johns was asked about the possibility of taking his athletic 6-2, 225-pound body to defense, such as linebacker.

Johns said, "When I came here, I realized my quickest chance to play was on special teams, so I volunteered for that. But if you ever see me playing linebacker, you'll know I did not volunteer for that."

Time changes things, perhaps.

Monday afternoon, Alabama Coach Nick Saban announced that Johns would be trying a new position. "Jimmy came to me during the season and then again after the season to talk," Saban said. He said the reason for the discussion was Johns' desire to move to linebacker. The coach pointed out that the time wasn't right during the season, but that Johns is now working on defense as Alabama prepares for the Independence Bowl gmae on December 31 in Shreveport.

"He may have some potential there in his future, " Saban said. "We'll use a few of these practices to see.

"It was something he wanted to do."

The coach said it is possible that there is not enough time for Johns to learn the position well enough to participate at linebacker in the bowl game.

Johns is working at weakside linebacker, the inside spot manned this year by senior captain Darren Mustin.

"We had been talking about it, but we really discussed it after the Auburn game," Johns said Monday afternoon. "It's best for me. I have a defensive mentality. I think it's a positive. I'm excited about it."

Johns said his motivation in making the move is "I always want to win. I always want to do what I can to help the team. It wasn't tough at all (to make the decision). I was excited about it."

Johns said he thought he would be a running back, but said he doesn't really fit in what he called "a scatback-type offense."

Johns said he thought his years on offense as a high school quarterback and college tailback would help him understand what to look for as he moves to defense. However, he has a distinct lack of defensive experience. He has played a total of four plays on defense, all in the state championship game his senior year at Brookhaven High School. "I made three tackles and they threw a pass the other down," he said.

Johns said, "I want to be an every down linebacker. If I'm not to that point when the (2008) season comes around, I might take a redshirt" and delay his defensive season until 2009.

Asked how he hits, he nodded towards tailback Glen Coffee, who was talking to reporters across the room. "Ask him," Johns said.

So, Glen Coffee, how does Jimmy Johns hit?

"Johns thinks he's a funny guy," Coffee said without a smile. Then he said, "He caught me sleeping." Coffee added, "Jimmy is going to be a good linebacker."

The two left the room together, Coffee wanting to know what Johns said, Johns claiming, "I didn't say anything."

Antoine Caldwell, Alabama's junior center, was also asked about Johns as a linebacker. "He's only been over there two days and you can already see what he can do," Caldwell said. "He's never played defense, but he's always had a defensive mentality.

"I'm happy to see him happy."

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