Freak Nasty

The rest of the Southeastern Conference found out last fall what most in Louisiana had known for years, Anthony Johnson truly is a freak. The record breaking pass rusher hit the ground running in Baton Rouge as a freshman and worked his way into the rotation at defensive tackle. With Michael Brocker's departure to the NFL, Johnson sees a chance to take the next step in his own development.

"It's been great," said Johnson of fall camp. "These guys are my brothers on and off the field.

"Every guy out here has the talent and the personality to help the team get better.

"Everybody comes out and pushes each other. We have some good young guys, but all of the older guys are doing that too."

While defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo have received a lot of the pre-season notoriety, Johnson believes the Tigers are going to be extremely talented in the middle.

"You look at Josh Downs, Ego Ferguson, Bennie Logan and myself and then Quentin Thomas and Mickey Johnson," said the talented sophomore. "This is probably the most talented group of defensive tackles in the country.

"I think we have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things.

"People look at me and say I'm a pass rusher. Look at Ego, he can stop the run. Bennie, he can stop the run.

"We just have a great unit and we all cheer for each other."

Johnson is expected to add to his production this fall thanks in large part to his own development as well as an increase in opportunities.

"I just want to help my team," said Johnson. "Of course I would love to make a lot of plays and be an All-American, but most of all I want to help this team.

"I want to be positive and do all I can to help everybody around me get better and make plays."

Expectations are always high in Baton Rouge especially when it comes to the Tiger defense.

Johnson expects the 2012 defense to build on the results the team put together last fall.

"I think we can be an even better defense this year," said Johnson. "I think overall we might even be better up front.

"We lost a big time guy like Michael Brockers who was a first round pick, but I think we're going to be okay with all of the guys we have coming back.

"I think we have the chance to be the best defensive line that LSU has ever had."

Part of the maturation process involves the mental side of things for the gregarious Johnson.

The true sophomore reports that defensive line coach Brick Haley has raised the bar for 2012 in hopes of speeding up Johnson's growth as both a player as well as a person.

"Coach said that he is expecting a lot out of me this year," said Johnson. "He knows that I was a great pass rusher in high school, but he wants me to step up and be more of a leader now.

"I worked on doing that a lot this summer. I feel like I am practicing a lot better and I feel like he's developing more trust in me."

Still an underclassmen, Johnson reports there has not been any awkwardness with his more vocal role and that his linemates accept him for who he is.

"I'm just myself and the guys respect me for that and they know my personality," explained Johnson. "They don't care about how old I am.

"We all want the best for this team and none of those guys feel threatened when somebody speaks up to encourage somebody to do the right thing.

"We all respect each other and we all want to help each other get better."

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