Look For Johnson As Tide Leader

Last year a guy named Johnson was a well-respected leader of the Alabama defense. Rashad has taken his talents to the National Football League, but another Johnson has emerged as a leader, and he plays on the other side of the ball.

That would be Alabama senior Mike Johnson, a three-year starter who has settled at left guard.

"The offensive line is going to be a critical area. We've got to have some young players step up," said Tide Coach Nick Saban. "Mike Johnson is the guy that has the most experience, and is a quality player for us, and he needs to be a leader that affects the quality of that group. He's an outstanding leader."

Thursday, Saban, along with players Mike Johnson and Rolando McClain, were on stage at the Southeastern Conference Media Days event at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover.

Johnson gets it. "It's something that just comes natural when you become a senior," he said. "All those other guys who are under you, they're looking at you, to see what direction to go. You feel there're other guys wanting to know how to be led, and what they're supposed to do at this point in their careers, and I'm just trying to help them along. I try to be a leader as much as I can, but in the end they're going to have to be the guy on the field to step up in (pressure) situations. Hopefully, I can just give them some good advice and put them in a position to help them do what they need to do.

"We've got a lot of players that have got to step in and fill roles. I've told whoever's playing next to me (at center), ‘I've been doing this for two years. I can help you with the calls.' I'll correct somebody sometimes, and try to help out as much as I can," Johnson said.

Johnson can't (and won't) speak for his position coach, Joe Pendry, but he did offer some insight as to who might be joining him and returning right tackle starter Drew Davis on the revamped Bama line.

"William Vlachos is working really hard at center," Johnson said, "and so is David Ross, (also at center). William has really stepped in and taken the reins, and is making the calls on the offensive line. Brian Motley, John Michael Boswell, and Barrett Jones are all competing for the other guard."

That last sentence is in itself a revelation, as Boswell worked at right tackle for A-Day after running with the first unit at right guard until about a week before spring's end. Johnson said the backups for right tackle Davis are currently Tyler Love and Taylor Pharr. He said his backup at left guard is true freshman Chance Warmack, with this endorsement: "Chance is a beast."

Johnson said that junior college transfer James Carpenter and true freshman D.J. Fluker are both working out exclusively at left tackle. Should Fluker prove ready to play early, Johnson said Carpenter "would probably be okay" with moving to right guard if that's what would help the team most.

One thing that Johnson says has made him a better player is going against mammoth nose tackle Terrence Cody ("Mount Cody") in practice.

"I get that question a lot," smiled Johnson. "He's a handful. I ain't going to lie. He outweighs me by probably 70 pounds. It's no fun, but I'm glad he's on my football team. Week in and week out, we like to look out there and see how the other (team) is dealing with, because we've got to deal with him all week. I like to see how the guys from LSU, Mississippi State are looking trying to block T.C."

Johnson also reminded fans that backs, receivers, quarterbacks and linebackers aren't the only ones doing off-season football drills. "We've worked harder this year in the off season, as an offensive line than I can remember working," Johnson added. "I think everybody's going to be pleasantly surprised by what they see on the field this year"

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