With help from junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief at safety along with former offensive players Johnathan Ford and Trovon Reed, Johnson said so far things are going well in the secondary and he has seen some good signs from those players.
"Moncrief has been an extremely pleasant surprise," Johnson said. "When you get a junior college player who's not played in your system you always wonder how long is it going to take him to transition? He's making some mistakes out there as you would expect. I think at this point he is way beyond all of the new safeties. I say the word new, meaning those that we don't already know about."
While Moncrief is settling in to a completely new defensive system, for Reed it's an entirely new concept for a player who has been on the offensive side of the ball at wide receiver the last four years.
Talented enough to warrant consideration as a cornerback coming out of high school, Reed's move to defense has worked out well so far and Johnson said that he could help provide depth along with several young players behind starter Jonathon Mincy and top reserve Jonathan Jones.
"Trovon has had a really good camp," Johnson said. "He's still learning the system, but I think from what Melvin's (Smith) telling me about one-on-ones, just his cover skills and playing the position physically, he's been a really bright spot. We think he's going to help us tremendously. Jonesy, we've just got to keep him healthy. We know he can play.
"You've got Mincy back, Jones back, T.J. (Davis) has improved quite a bit, and Kamryn Melton, he's really coming into being a really good, reliable player," Johnson added. "We've got some good young ones coming in that I think are going to be okay as long as they can learn what we do. They're going to be physical, really good. Starting to develop some depth out there again."
That leaves perhaps the key to Auburn's secondary in 2014, Holsey. Coming off knee surgery last October, the junior is already practicing in a limited role this spring. While he's working exclusively at the boundary safety at the moment, there is a chance he could move back to cornerback in the fall with the development of Moncrief at safety said Johnson. He could even make a move into the box on defense if needed, something that isn't out of the question next fall.
"Josh is big enough to play boundary safety and big enough to play star," Johnson said. "We would probably rather have a bigger star-backer, but he could end up being the best star if we don't have any depth at linebacker and we have to move Justin (Garrett). Boundary corner, that's the really critical spot in our roster. Mincy has made a good transition so far, but Josh may end up moving back to boundary corner if we have to move Mincy around.
"We've got a lot of flexibility and moving parts. Part of that is good, but to be truthful I would like to come out of spring with a little bit better idea of where they're all going to fit and we can get a little better continuity. When we started having that rash of injuries last year during the season, a lot of our consistency was lost. That's what can happen. It may take spring and a little bit of the preseason.
"We've got some good looking freshmen that are going to come in," Johnson added. "You never want to count on them to solve your problems, but they'll be some pleasant surprises in those groups and I'm sure some of those will help us, too."