Johnson Expects Bigger and Better Things

It's no secret that Mississippi State's defense has more than a handful of solid Southeastern Conference players. With the likes of seniors Deljuan Robinson, Andrew Powell, Antonio Johnson and Michael Heard across the defensive front, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier called the Bulldogs' defensive line "one of the best in the Southeastern Conference".

And then there's all-SEC middle linebacker Quentin Culberson along with other veterans roaming the field such as Titus Brown, Gabe O'Neal and David Heard.

So when free safety Jeramie Johnson discovered he was chosen to represent Mississippi State's defense at the SEC Media Days, he felt 'honored to be picked from a lot of good players'.

"It was a great honor to be chosen to come (to SEC Media Days)," said Johnson. "At first I was surprised but then I prayed about it. I can do the speaking and I am a leader on this team and several guys do look up to me. But it was just a good honor to be chosen from among all our defensive players."

Johnson's numbers on the playing field prove that the East Point, Ga., native was very worthy of taking on the minute-by-minute interviews at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., last Friday.

Last week, he was named all-SEC second-team defense, a honor he also received by the Associated Press following the conclusion of last year's junior campaign.

Johnson had four pass thefts last season, tying him for top honors in the league, and also ranked second on the team with 64 tackles.

Yes, three of Johnson's interceptions came against Ole Miss in the 35-14 Egg Bowl whipping. But Johnson has been steady throughout his career in the Maroon and White.

Johnson enters his senior campaign with 19 career starts, 150 career stops and seven career picks.

During Friday's chat session with the SEC media, Johnson was confident in his answers, showing no signs of doubt that the Bulldogs' defense can put on a better show when the fall arrives, most notably August 31st when Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks come calling on a Thursday night ESPN special.

"I think this defense will be great this year," said Johnson. "I say that because we have come together as one right now and we are getting the job done as far as extra work goes. I really believe we will see great things from this defense."

He also gives credit to head coach Sylvester Croom. Johnson and his veteran defensive mates have seen the changes on and off the field since Croom's arrival three years ago.

And their maturation off the field and in the classroom has carried over to the product Bulldogs fans now see on the playing field.

"The biggest thing to me is that Coach Croom has changed this program around by getting all the guys to go to class and do all the right things," noted Johnson. "No guys are missing class, no guys are saying 'Let's go cut class and do this and do that'. I think Coach Croom has built himself around us so that we can be more like him, being more respective and be more manly and take pride in ourselves."

Since the day he arrived as a highly-touted cornerback from the Atlanta prep ranks and Booker T. Washington High School, Johnson has made a name for himself in the Bulldogs' secondary.

In his rookie campaign of 2003, Johnson was in the starting lineup six times, either at free safety or strong safety. And three years later, Johnson is still the leading voice in State's defensive backfield.

He admits he likes the more physical play at the free safety slot, but other than that, he hasn't experienced in other obstacles playing both safety positions.

"Actually, it's not a big difference," said Johnson. "I have played strong safety and free safety since I got here but there's not much difference between the two. I've played both and probably play a little of both every game because again, there's not much different in the two. The main difference is the free safety comes down more, kind of like a linebacker. At strong safety, he is more like a middle or one-third player. So there are not many differences."

Back to the classroom part, Johnson is scheduled to get his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies in the spring of 2007. Like any college player in the SEC, Johnson has his own dream of playing at the next level - the National Football League.

But with his degree in hand next spring, Johnson already has a back-up plan.

"I plan on graduating in the spring," said Johnson. "If football doesn't work out, I will go back to Atlanta and join the police force and help my community out."

As he embarks on his final season in Starkville, Johnson flashes a big smile when he recalls the first time he came to Mississippi State.

"It has flown by but I've had fun doing what I've been doing," said Johnson. "It's not hard to believe that I am a senior and I am glad that I am a senior. But it has flown by."

One of the old sayings in any athletic event is that 'you are only as good as your last game'.

Of course, Bulldog fans will tell you quickly how Johnson did in his last game, stealing three would-be Rebel completions and returning them back the other way.

But he doesn't want to stop there. He believes that confidence he built against the Rebels will continue this fall.

He wants fans to expect that type of production from him, and if possible, even more.

"Fans can expect that type of performance from me and they can expect even more," said Johnson. "I am going to give the fans what they want and get what I want. They can expect a whole lot from me this year."


Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com.

Gene's Page Top Stories