Early in the season Johnson was not even on the Georgia depth chart. Players like Marcus Jackson and Richard Cook were listed in front of him during the summer. But over time the true freshman began developing in practice. He was being used on special teams and earned playing time.
Around the middle of the season, the Vanderbilt game specifically, Johnson started making his presence known on the field. Against the Commodores the defensive end managed the best game of his young career. He tallied three tackles. It was modest, but playing time behind David Pollack is limited.
"He has steadily gotten better," said Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt. "As a result he is getting more playing time."
"I still have a lot of improving to do," said Johnson. "I'm not playing bad, but I haven't done anything good, either – I am doing alright."
Johnson said he is still learning the fundamentals of playing defensive end.
"A lot of young guys that have a knack for rushing the passer have to learn how to play the run better, and that is part of his learning cure right now," said Richt.
Senior leadership at defensive end may be accelerating Johnson's learning. He said he closely watches both Pollack and Will Thompson. The freshman said the most important thing he is learning from the two is how important hustle is.
"Back in high school you could just kid around," noted Johnson of other things he had learned his first semester in Athens. "Now, I have to be serious about everything."
This year Johnson may be buried a bit behind Pollack, but astute observers can already tell his potential is turning into production.
"He is becoming a productive player for us. We are excited about his potential," said Richt.