Little Big Man

Jovon Johnson said Tuesday that he had added 20 pounds to his 5-9 frame since coming to Iowa, which could be bad news for opposing receivers. The junior-to-be from Erie, Pa., also has stepped into a leadership role on what is expected to be one of the Big Ten's best defenses. Catch up with Iowa's playmaking CB in this premium feature.


How has the spring been going?

It's been going pretty well. We've got a lot of new players stepping in.

Has your role changed at all now that you're an upperclassmen?

I've got to try to step into a leadership role more and try to voice my opinion on the field a little bit more to the younger players that really haven't played. Nothing is really going to change. It's just that I've just got to be more vocal and try to influence people to do well out there on the field.

You look like you've gotten bigger. Are you starting to fill out a little bit?

Yeah. I'm starting to put on some pounds. Coach Doyle wanted me up to 175. I'm about 177 now. I'm feeling good, and I feel that I'm going to be ready for a good year this year.

What did you come in here at?

Probably 157. So I've put on a lot of pounds. I think it's helped a lot. I've gotten a little faster; got a little stronger in the weight room. It's going to all work out well.

Can you notice it on the field when you're hitting?

Yeah. I mean now that I weigh more, I feel like I can go in and stick a shoulder in and not worry about getting hurt a much as I did when I was a freshman. I'm just going to try to go out there and makes plays.

How has Walner looked?

He's doing pretty good. He's still learning the defense and stuff like that, but he's playing pretty well.

Is the defense going to be the strength of this team?

I know that our defense is going to be confident. We've got a lot of players returning. We lost some key players, but there are some people stepping in and taking those roles. Our defense is going to be strong. Hopefully we'll come out and just play every game, week in and week out, like we did last year.

Is it too early to set any goals? Last year, you guys were one of the top 10 defenses in the country.

I think it's too early to say right now. We don't know exactly where we're going to be because we're playing against our offense every week and every day at practice. we kind of know what they do, and they know what we do. It's kind of hard to tell what type of things are going to be going on out there. But I'm sure that our defense will be one of the better ones in the country, and we'll be ready to go before the season starts.

We've heard that there have been a few more picks this spring?

(Laughs) We've been stepping it up. We've been getting our hands on balls in practice and stuff like that. Marcus has been playing well. He's the strong safety right now. We motivate each other to do stuff like that. Whoever wins the interception battle at practice the other players will give him 25 pushups.

Is the leadership thing something that you look forward to?

I mean I think it's kind of easy because I was a quarterback in high school so I'm use to leading teams. I was a point guard in basketball. I know what it takes to be a leader. I know the role that I have to play. I had players like Bob Sanders and all of them last year in front of me. They were leading me. Now, it's my turn to lead the other players.

Is it kind of weird to look back there and not see Bob?

Yeah. It is kind of weird. A lot of teams feared coming across the middle or throwing the deep ball when they knew that Bob Sanders was back there. But I think we'll be alright this year. People just have to make a name for themselves, and then everything will start going smooth.

What kind of reputation do you want this defense to have?

I like the role that we have in the Big Ten which is being the most physical defense. I want it to be the defense that no one wants to go up against. I want us to be the most feared defense in the Big Ten.

Is that keeping people off of the scoreboard or hitting people pretty hard?

It's both. We've got to kep people off of the scoreboard to help our offense out. And Hitting people in the mouth every play that really helps to make people fear you.

How is Ma'Quan coming along?

I don't really know. He's been practicing a little bit. He does what he can. I'm sure that he'll be ready to go in the fall. We'll see what happens during camp.

He was going well in your nickle packages. Was the injury really hard on him?

I'm sure he was down about it when it happened. But he's getting back to full strength now. He's running around. He's doing the things that we do. I'm sure he'll be getting his confidence back soon.

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