Marquis Johnson Lights up the Room

Most members of the Alabama media had not interviewed, or even met, Marquis Johnson until Tuesday after the Tide's practice. Johnson entered the media room with an ear-to-ear grin, and by the time he was finished with a five-minute chat with the state's scribes, they were all singing his praises.

Several told Jeff Purinton, Associate Athletics Director for Football Media Relations, to put Johnson down on their weekly interview requests.

Here's some of what the junior cornerback from Sarasota, Fla. had to say.

Asked if he was the third cornerback in the Tide's nickel sets, as it appears in limited practice viewing periods, Johnson made like his head coach and often-times position coach, Nick Saban, and showed no cards.

"I don't know," Marquis Johsnon said, laughing. "I'm just taking it a day at a time, trying to do my best, every day. I hope. That's my expectation, is to try to play, to get on the field. I have no idea. It's completely up to coach (Saban)."

"They switch us up, all the time. I'm just trying to play. I hope they give me a break. I hope so!"

The last three words were spoken in a high pitch that had reporters cackling. Slowly, but surely, Johnson was reeling them in.

With all the young talent coming into camp and vying for time in the nickel and dime packages, Johnson was and is determined to play a big role.

"If I am (in the nickel), I feel like I want to avenge what I did last year," he said. "Just be a better player, and improve. We'll see (Saturday)."

Johnson's well-documented struggles against Florida State last year have served to motivate him to bounce back. Giving up a long touchdown in a close game is a hard thing to forget, and Johnson hasn't.

"Specifically, yes, to be honest," he said, when questioned on the Tide loss in Jacksonville . "For me personally, just like (Saban) says, you've got to have goals set. My goals have not changed. I still look at that game to improve for this year. I feel like I've improved tremendously on my weaknesses."

"I took what happened in that game, and just fed myself. From the film room, to the weight room, to the bowl game, to spring, to the off-season, to now, I just kept eating it."

"Now, I'm in control, so I'm good. A DB has got to have a short-term memory. Overcoming adversity, and making up for it, working at what you may not be good at, that's with anything in life."

Johnson says he's worked specifically to improve on his "overall game. Everybody needs to improve their mental intensity, like (Saban) says. Technique in general. Playing the ball. All the things DBs work on. Just polishing them. Two-a-days give you the opportunity to work on the little things, polish them out, and then get ready for the season."

Apparently, the motivational speakers brought in by Saban caught Johnson's ear, and helped him with his confidence and work ethic.

"It was on point. All of them," he said with enthusiasm, as he often speaks. "It's funny. It's just like when you go to church, and the pastor just hits you right on the spot whether you want to listen to it or not. That's exactly how it was."

"To me, that was good for us as a team. That made us realize that we need to focus. One of them said, ‘Just focus for those 90 days. Get through them, and then go on about your business.'"

Clemson features some good receivers, such as Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham.

"We should be able to match up with anybody," said Johnson. "I'm going to go in there and play down-for-down. I'm going to just make sure I do good, but I'm sure my teammates feel the same way. Make sure they play their best, and leave it all out there on the field."

"Skills speak for themselves. ‘Stalk, hawk and intimidate.' That's what coach (Saban) says. That's how I'm going to feel when I go on the field."

Johnson is not certain, but feels he will be on most of Bama's special team's Saturday, even if he's not the nickel back.

"Any way I can help the team, that's how I feel," he said. "Any position the coach wants me to play. Hey coach! I'll play it!"

No. 24 Alabama and Johnson take on ninth-ranked Clemson at 7 p.m. (CDT) Saturday, with ABC-TV set to televise.

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