Johnson rolls with the changes

As one of Arizona State's first commits of the 2012 class, Oliver Johnson was emotionally invested in the Sun Devils since April of last year. Thus, a roller coaster season by his future team resonated quite strongly with him. Much to his delight, uncertainty over his future following a coaching change in Tempe was cleared up in a hurry for the Pierce College cornerback.

Johnson was able to establish a strong connection with Arizona State's former coaching staff early in the recruiting process, and that that led him to commit following an unofficial spring visit.

"I talked to Coach Trent Bray who was also recruiting my friend, Gerald Bowman," Johnson said, "and he asked both of us to come out for a spring practice. When I got there I really liked it. I always wanted to play for a Pac-12 team and I was interested in the school. Everything just felt like home and I was very comfortable.

"I didn't have offers yet when I took that visit so I was hungry. I was joking around with my friends at the hotel telling them that if I was going to be offered on the visit I would commit. That was my first time visiting there and I really liked the college environment and the facilities. I felt that I could really contribute to this team."

Johnson was happy that he did commit early in the process, and needless to say that the Sun Devils' 6-2 start last season only reinforced that feeling. On the same token, doubts started creeping into his mind as the team ended the year with five consecutive losses.

"I felt very bad for the team," Johnson admitted. "But I really think that discipline could have really helped them at the end of the season. Seeing what they were going through on defense I did feel that I could help them next year. I had a high ankle sprain my sophomore year, actually during the first week of camp. So I played in only four games. As the season went on, I had less and less communication with the (old) coaches.

"So when I knew that there was going to be a new coaching staff there, I didn't know if they would still want me. So it was tough for me going through all of that, because I didn't know where I stood with them and I didn't know where I was going to play."

A meeting with current Secondary Coach Chris Ball was able to put the cornerback's mind at ease as far as his future with the maroon and gold.

"I was able to talk to him in December," Johnson recalled, "He was asking if I was still interested in the school, which was funny because I was wondering if they were still interested in me. He told me that he wanted me to be part of this team and he made it very comfortable for me.

"At that time it was like he had a better relationship with the players off-campus like myself, because the other (returning) players were already back home. It almost felt that I was part of his recruiting class."

Despite Johnson's relief following the arrival of the new staff, the cornerback still wanted to keep is options opened, and contemplated official visits to Texas Tech and New Mexico. Other suitors at the time also included Utah, Oregon State, Miami, and New Mexico State.

"But once I visited ASU (in mid-January) I shut it down," Johnson said, "because I knew this is where I wanted to go and I was solid."

Standing at 6-0 and 185 lbs. Johnson is naturally more suited than the average cornerback to cover taller and more physical receivers, and it's a trait that caught the coaching staff's eye.

"Being that I'm a taller corner, Coach Ball said that I would fit in perfectly in their system," Johnson noted. "He liked both my man-to-man and my zone skills and he liked what he saw on my film. I feel that I'm a smart corner who understands schemes very well, has good technique and communicates well on the field.

Johnson's stature is somewhat rare among NFL cornerbacks, let alone among college players. The former Pierce College player said that while he always felt that he played well at wide receiver he did ultimately prefer to play on the other side of the ball.

"I feel that I'm more at control when I'm at corner," Johnson explained. "The receiver is never in control because he always dependent on the quarterback's play calling and getting him the ball."

Johnson sated that his ankle is "90 percent" healed and as it stands right now he expects to be fully healed in time for fall camp as he is about to leave for ASU this week.

"I have been able to run on that ankle and work out." Johnson said. "I'm waiting on the final grade of my last class to get my AA degree. I'm going to arrive on campus Tuesday or Wednesday and start working out with the team.

"I've been talking to Mike Bercovici and said that he really likes the new coaches and he gets a good vibe from them. He feels very good about this coaching staff and he likes the more intense workouts. Even though it's more disciplined they are having more fun now. Hearing all that makes me feel that I did make the right decision and I'm looking forward to getting down there."

Like any junior college transfer, the expectation is for Johnson to contribute in his first season and the cornerback knows that nothing will be given to him just because of his class status.

"I want to go in there and earn the respect of my coaches and teammates," Johnson remarked, "not only as a player but also as a person. I know I have the ability to potentially start but I also know it will take time until I learn the scheme and win the coaches over.

"I will do anything the coaches ask me to do, but I think I will be a starter at some point this season."



Recruit Profile

Name

Oliver Johnson

Junior College Pierce College (Calif.)



Position

Cornerback

Height

6-0

Weight

185

Date of Birth

05/02/91

Birthplace

Los Angeles

Nickname

"Ollie"

Favorite TV Show

"The Big Bang Theory"

Favorite Movie

"A Man Apart"

Favorite Singer

"I don't have a favorite. I like a variety of music: Rap, R&B, Pop and Rock."

Favorite Food

"Italian Food"

Favorite Drink

"Strawberry Lemonade"

Favorite Athlete

"Kobe Bryant"

Favorite Pro Team

"San Diego Chargers"

Person you most admire

"My mom. She was a young mother but still worked very hard for us. Besides being a mother, she is a friend too. I really admire what she has done for our family."

First Football Memory

"My first touchdown when I was seven years old. I was a fullback and when they handed me the ball I had a straight path to the end zone. I spiked the ball when I scored, and I wasn't supposed to. My coach was yelling at me for doing that and pretending to be mad so the referee wouldn't flag me, but after that he hugged me and said ‘good job, but don't do that again."

One Thing most people don't know about me

"My first year at junior college, at Missouri Western State College, I was one of only two freshmen scholar athletes."

Why did you choose ASU?

"It's close to home and I feel very comfortable there."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Finishing up my career in the NFL or being a sports apparel fashion designer."


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