"It's been a learning experience," Johnson said. "Coming out of high school, I played quarterback on offense. When I first got here, Brian Logan and B. Bradley took me under their wing, and then this past year Corby Eason and Preston [Hadley] showed me the ropes. Now here it is my turn. I don't know, just learning from them year in and year out has really made the difference for me."
A quick learner, Johnson is an ardent student of his position. His approach to becoming a better cornerback is simple: watch what works and what doesn't then incorporate what does into your own game.
"It's mostly just learning from the experience of the guys ahead of you that allows you to have success when you do finally see the field," Johnson said. "Learning from my coach, Coach Howell, and knowing what to do and what not to do has been my focus along with developing my technique. You can know what to do but if you don't allow the coaches to help you develop your technique then someone who has spent that time doing so will beat you."
Although Preston Hadley might not have as much upside to his game, Johnson has watched Hadley closely to learn what it is that he does to make him a formidable cornerback opponent.
"Oh, he's a playmaker and that's what it's all about at the cornerback position is making plays," Johnson said. "You have to be a playmaker or else you're not going to make it at this position and that's what he's been doing. I've been watching and learning from him to try and mimic what he does then put it to the test during spring.
"That's the thing about this position. You have to try and learn as much as you can in order to be as good as you can. If you aren't humble and teachable you won't make it very long, so I try and learn from Preston [Hadley], DeQuan [Everett] and Joe [Sampson] and mold their game to mine. You can always take a little something from someone to make your game better. I'm having a lot of success out here and hopefully that will carry over to the spring."
Playing at the field side cornerback position, Johnson has received a healthy dose of Ross Apo, who was ranked the 14th best receiver in the 2010 recruiting class. In watching Johnson battle Apo, he's had quite a bit of success and he's lost a few. However, one thing is certain, Johnson can play.
"Ross is a person that I compete against daily and respect," Johnson said. "He is a great player and he makes me work hard. I like to think I make him work hard and help make him better as a wide receiver by making it tough for him.
"You know, last year he got the chance to play a lot while I didn't get the chance to play. I feel it's now my time to play so I'm going to work just as hard if not harder to beat any cornerback that lines up on my side. At the same time, I know Ross and everybody else is thinking the same thing and is going to do the same."
At this stage of spring practice Johnson appears to be competing with Robbie Buckner for the starting spot at field side corner. On the other side, at the boundary corner spot, Preston Hadley will return once he recovers from post-season shoulder surgery. In the meantime, Everett, Hague and at times Cameron Comer have been competing at the boundary in Hadley's absence.
"Yeah, right now Coach Howell has me running with the ones," said Johnson. "Behind me is Robbie Buckner, so me and him have been competing for the starting spot at field side corner. Then on the other side it's been Mike Hague when he isn't playing safety, and DeQuan Everett. Cameron [Comer] has been on the field side and going back and forth, but I think coach is going to put him at the boundary side."