Johnson Discusses His Expanded Role

Auburn junior Spencer Johnson could be a busy football player on Monday night vs. the Southern California Trojans.

Auburn, Ala.--If Spencer Johnson minds the possibility of a little double-duty as a defensive end in addition to his main role as the starting tackle for the Auburn defense, he is doing a good job of hiding it.

Spencer Johnson

In fact, there is a sparkle in the junior's eyes when talks about the possibility of seeing some action at end, a position where he saw some game action as a true freshman two seasons ago.

With Reggie Torbor (knee strain) and Bret Eddins (groin pull) less than full speed this week, defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has called in reinforcements at end. Johnson, a 6-3, 283-pounder who runs very well, says he is eager to help. "Once you get into it, it is not that difficult of a move for me because I have played there before," Johnson says. "There is not that much to learn. You have got to learn a couple more plays than what we use at tackle, but I will be alright at end."

Spencer Johnson (53) was an All-State linebacker in high school has grown into a defensive tackle.

Johnson, who was plagued with knee problems as a sophomore, says he is full speed again and hopes to be able to put pressure on the quarterback whether he plays tackle or end. He says it might be less difficult to get after the QB from the end position. "It is not easy at tackle because you have got those guys doubling you," he says. "Hopefully, if I get to move out there to end I will be able to get to the quarterback. Nothing is easy in this league. You have got to work hard."

Johnson says he hopes that Torbor, who is the only experienced defensive end on the team, is back to full speed soon. "He is a leader on the field and we know he's going to perform and get the job done," Johnson says.

Johnson is considerably larger than he was as a freshman. He is shown (at left) chasing Florida QB Rex Grossman in the 2000 SEC Championship Game along with Javor Mills (96), who is one of three defensive ends who played last year who were seniors.

The Tigers will tee it up for real on Monday evening in Los Angeles against the Southern California Trojans. Kickoff time is 7 p.m. CDT and the game will be televised by ABC. "For us to be successful, it has to start up front," Johnson says. "They have a very experienced offensive line and we have played a lot of football, too.

"With the things that Coach Chizik does we blitz a lot with stunts and things like that. It's all going to come down to the defensive line getting pressure on their quarterback and making him throw the ball when he doesn't want to throw it and letting our DBs make plays."

Johnson says he has seen improvement in the Tigers in the past week. "Everybody is excited and enthusiastic about this game and everybody is coming in with a great attitude at practice You can see it at school, when you are just talking to the guys that everybody is excited about going out there and playing this game."


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