Johnson ready for expanded role on defense
Last season as a redshirt freshman, 6'5, 215 linebacker Brandon Johnson was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team and the Sporting News C-USA All-Freshman Team after tying for the national lead with teammate Curry Burns with three blocked punts.
An outstanding special teams member in 2002, Johnson made 34 tackles on the season after being switched from defensive end to linebacker.
This season, Johnson's role expands and he's listed as the starter at outside linebacker heading into the game against Kentucky. Late last week, Johnson slightly strained his hamstring and missed four days of practice but returned to action on Tuesday and proclaims to be one hundred percent ready for action this weekend.
"It was a little minor strain of my hamstring but I'm one hundred percent now," Johnson said. "I took about four days off and I'm back to full go now and every thing is all right."
Johnson has a simple explanation of what it will take to slow down the Wildcat offense and come out of Commonwealth Stadium victorious.
"It's just really going to come down to who plays harder," Johnson explained. "They don't know too much about us and we don't know too much about them. So it's almost like a high school game where you don't really know what you're opponents going to do."
Despite losing four starters from last seasons front seven, including current Tampa Bay defensive end Dwayne White, Johnson is confident about the guys up front and spoke highly of their ability to get the job done.
"Even though our group is new we still have as much talent up front as last year..the only thing missing are the names," Johnson said. "Montavious Stanley is 290 pounds and can move just like Dwayne [White] and has great hands. We've got Tyrone Satterfield and Bobby Leffew coming back, who's an all-american, so I think we're going to be alright up front."
During the past several seasons, fans have come to expect an excellent pass rush from the Cardinal defense. With so many new faces on that side of the ball and a new staff with different schemes, will the Cards be able to pressure opposing quarterbacks like in years past?
"Most definitely, the pass rush is coming," Johnson said. "We've got Marcus Jones quick off the edge, I play end in pass rush situations and I'm bringing some heat. We've got Hammer blitzing up the middle when we come with pressure. Tyrone is great and he's going to make a name for himself this year. So we're coming with it."
Minus three starters from last season's secondary, including NFL hopefuls Curry Burns and Anthony Floyd, Johnson thinks the new group behind him is talented enough to step in and fill the void this season.
"Definitely," Johnson said without hesitating when asked about his confidence in the secondary. "Kerry Rhodes is truly athletic. Brent Johnson is a student of the game. Josh Minkins has all the experience. We've got new corners in Gavin Smart and Antoine Harris...and they can cover, so I have much confidence in them...they just lack a little experience."
A special teams ace a year ago blocking three punts, can Johnson top that feat this season?
"Time will tell," Johnson said. "What did I have three last year, I missed two so I should have had five so I guess I'll have to go for six this year."