Johnson Ready To Be Fulltime Defender

Contrary to what you might think, Orhian Johnson is not sorry to be giving up the quarterback position on his way north to be a Buckeye next season. He told why that is.

"I just love playing football so as long as I'm out there playing and making plays and winning games, it won't bother me too much," he said.

His ability to make plays, in fact, was what led Gulfport (Fla.) Boca Ciega head coach Steve Thomas to use Johnson as a quarterback in his spread offense the past two seasons, including 2007 when the Johnson led the Pirates to a district championship in Florida's Class 4A.

"As they say, when you don't have a pure quarterback, you've got to put your best athlete at the position and give him the opportunity to make plays," Thomas said. "He was one heck of an athlete but at the same time he has all the attributes needed to be a quarterback at the college level."

Earlier this month Johnson picked Ohio State over Indiana and nearby South Florida. The latter two schools were looking at him as a signal caller in their spread offenses, while Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel and cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, who primarily handled Johnson's OSU recruiting, signed him up as a defensive back.

Though rated Orhian Johnson a three-star prospect and the No. 30 quarterback in the nation, Johnson's coach said he began his high school career as a defensive back before his value on offense led to his being used only part time on defense.

"He played primarily on the offensive side of the ball last year but we did use him in different situations on defense as a free safety," Thomas said.

The time on offense made Johnson a better defensive player, both the prospect and coach agreed.

Thomas said among the player's biggest strengths as a safety was his ability to diagnose a play and react, while Johnson added, "I'm pretty rangy. I've got good makeup speed and I can find the ball well. Being on the offensive side you can kind of read the offensive linemen and tell where the offensive play is going. I think I kind of get that from playing the quarterback spot.

"I think I'm a smart player on defense and I'm just ready to go in there and be a Buckeye and learn a lot from these coaches these next few years and get better at it."

Ohio State's courtship of Johnson began last spring with a trip south by Taver Johnson (no relation) during Florida high school spring practice season.

The OSU coach attended Johnson's spring game, where he met the athlete's family, and made a good impression.

Taver Johnson called soon after to officially extend a scholarship offer.

Orhian Johnson visited Columbus Jan. 11 and liked what he saw – then he was a fan of what he heard afterwards, as well.

"Just getting up there and getting around a few places it felt like home and then when I got back home I had a couple of other recruits who had already committed calling and giving me text messages, telling me to come up there to be a part of the Buckeye family and win Big Ten championships and national championships, so it felt like home in that aspect," he said.

Among those previously committed Buckeyes to contact him were Cincinnati La Salle wide receiver DeVier Posey, Beavercreek, Ohio, safety Zach Domicone and Miami (Fla.) Dr. Krop teammates linebacker Etienne Sabino and cornerback Travis Howard.

"Throughout the whole recruiting process I wanted to make sure I found a home away from home, and I felt as if Ohio State was the best fit out of the three schools that I had left," Johnson said.

He will join a crowded defensive backfield in Columbus, where nine DBs have signed in the past two recruiting classes, but Johnson is not worried about competition. He also could play wide receiver and said coaches mentioned the possibility of using him under center in special situations some day.

"I never really worried about competition because coming from Florida that's what we go up against every week," he said. "So that wasn't a big thing for me. In fact, that's probably one of the stronger things because if you compete against the best players when you get on the field you know that you're one of the best players on the team so that's a plus."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories