They always say it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
While that may not be apropos to SEC Football, it's clear Arkansas is going with the fight in the Hog at nose guard instead of size at the moment.
Redshirt sophomore Taiwan Johnson (6-3, 257) supplanted DeMarcus Hodge (5-10, 330) at that spot this week in practice with Hodge actually moving over to back-up defensive tackle and heralded freshman Bijhon Jackson (6-2, 317) moving in as Johnson's back-up.
“We wanted to get our four best defensive linemen on the field at the same time and right now that's exactly what he is – one of the best four,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith.
“It's been great,” Johnson said. “It's a new position, but I am trying to learn it and do my best out there and contribute with the ones.”
No one has to tell Johnson – who has the green light to eat as much as he wants - he is not the prototypical SEC nose guard.
“It all starts with a good strike and really coming off and using my quickness and being able to chase down plays and helping in the passing game,” Johnson said while adding he knows he needs to add weight. “...It's just a gradual climb. I trying to make sure I keep my quickness and the way I move. I know that I need to gain weight to help me when I play in the SEC.”
Using a smaller nose guard is something that Tampa Bay – where Smith was a defensive coach last season - did in the NFL with Roy Miller during the 2009-2012 seasons.
“Yes, we have watched it before and seen how that defense translates into what we are trying to do with ours,” Johnson said.
Arkansas coaches haven't told Johnson – who arrived as a 235-pound defensive end – where he needs to get as far as weight.
I will continue to manage it as camp goes along because it is an issue with everybody,” Johnson said. “We need to make sure that our weight is a certain way – that we don't lose too much or gain too much. I am just trying to manage it as camp goes along.”
His main job is to keep the linebackers clean and allow them to make plays while making a few himself.
“Definitely,” Johnson said. “I feel it is all about team and trying to help those guys get over the top and trying to help the guards and centers don't come off on them,” Johnson said.
“I am just aiming at the center and making sure I do the technique the right way. That is what will really help me. If I don't execute the technique I won't have the chance to play in the first place so I just try to do the technique right.”
He knows he will face a great center in his team's opener in Auburn's Reese Dismukes (6-3, 295).
“He is a good player, a great player, All-SEC for a reason,” Johnson said. “That is a level that I am trying to get to so that is going to make it a battle. With a lot of their O-lineman, they do what they are suppose to and do a great job in coming off and staying low. I have to make sure I do the same.”
Without the size, Johnson knows he has to be annoying to the offensive linemen he goes up against.
“That's just my job – annoy them and get under their skin, frustrate them and try to do all that I can,” Johnson said. “Make plays in the backfield.”
He will not be doing much trash talking.
“No, I am not a talker out there,” Johnson said. “I try to focus on what I have to do and focus on my gap.”
New NG Johnson Hopes To Use Quickness
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