With senior safety Kurt Coleman suspended for the game by the Big Ten, the Buckeyes had to turn to some younger players to fill the void Oct. 3 while playing the Hoosiers on the road. One of them was Johnson, a redshirt freshman who had seen spot duty until that point of the season.
Looking back on the game, safeties coach Paul Haynes said that he also was nervous to see how the 6-2, 178-pound Johnson would fare in the first extended playing time of his career. As it turns out, the film showed an overall consistent performance.
"He did a good job," Haynes said. "That's always helpful when you can get a guy who's really your fourth guy to step in and be productive for you. You didn't really have a lot of production per se, but lined up right and did the things right."
For the game, Johnson recorded three solo tackles. Entering the contest, he has assisted on one tackle for the season after sitting out the first two games of the year with an ankle injury.
The biggest benefit for Johnson was the week of practice leading up to the game, Haynes said, because he did not have Coleman constantly telling him where to be. Instead, the native of St. Petersburg, Fla., had to figure it out for himself.
That was followed up by Johnson's first chance to watch himself on game film and receive feedback from Haynes. The experience was also rewarding for the coaches, who apparently learned they can count on the youngster.
"I think it's a confident booster for him so now he knows, ‘Hey, I can do it. I can be out there. I belong here,' " Haynes said. "It was a good experience. It was pleasant for me to see a guy like that who you didn't know. You see him in practice and he has the talent and the tools but to actually get out there and apply it was a pleasant surprise."
Not A Talker: It's not a secret that junior Ross Homan is turning into one of the top linebackers in the conference. It's also not much of a secret that the native of Coldwater, Ohio, would likely just as soon never say a word to the media if he had his way.
After he brought home the team's defensive player of the week award for his play against Toledo, Homan was one of three players available for the media to speak with following head coach Jim Tressel's weekly press luncheon the following Tuesday. When discussing Homan, Tressel pointed out that the reporters on hand would have their work cut out for them trying to get a story out of the linebacker.
"I told him I was going to go real short and real fast because I know how much he likes to talk and he wants extra time with you," Tressel said. "You'll really earn your money today trying to get a story."
It's not just around the media that Homan can be tight-lipped, however. Senior safety and team captain Kurt Coleman struggled for words when asked what it would take for Homan to become a more vocal leader.
"Ooh," Coleman said. "Um. That's a good question. He's not a, he's, I really don't know. He's a guy who will lead by example and does it with his work ethic and everything that he does, but as far as vocally, I don't know.
"I'm sure if the opportunity presented itself and he knew he had to say something, he would. I think he allows the seniors and the captains to handle that."
Nice Suggestion(s): Having headed an offense that has struggled for the first half of the season, Tressel was asked for the best suggestion a fan had sent him to improve the situation.
Tressel's response: "Resign."
After thinking it through a bit further, he came up with another: "Probably the best one was, ‘You know what you ought to do? Let Coach (Jim) Heacock call the plays on offense because he does a so much better job with the defense.' I asked him if he would and he said no."
A Matter Of Perspective: On Tuesday, senior wide receiver Ray Small said some of the struggles for the OSU offense were the result of an expanded playbook. After never having more than 60 plays in a given season, Small said, the Buckeyes were now using a playbook bulging with more than 100 plays.
Two days later, Tressel had an immediate comeback when asked about Small's comments.
"That's because he was at practice more this year," the head coach said.
Although his explosive play has opened up opportunities for the Buckeyes – particularly on special teams – Small has as often made headlines for off-the-field actions as he has for scoring touchdowns or breaking big plays.
This year, Tressel said Small's responsibilities have grown, which has likely led to his belief that there are more plays than in past seasons.
"He's played a couple different positions and that adds to that because you're not just learning your position," he said. "He's learned both inside and outside, and that's like playing two whole different worlds. He may be thinking of it from that standpoint."
However, Tressel said he was not sure if Small's comments were accurate or not.
"I don't know if that's true or false," he said. "Coaches have a tough time coming to work every morning and not putting in something new."
Through The Grapevine: After Coleman's late hit in the Illinois game, he was suspended two days later by the Big Ten after it reviewed the play. For Coleman, the decision at least ended the suspense about his situation.
"The funny thing was we didn't even really talk about it," he said. "Nobody really talked to me about it and my dad kept texting me going, ‘Are you going to get suspended?' I'm like, ‘I don't think so.' Coach Tress called me and said yeah, I was going to get suspended."
Sound The Horn: As the Buckeyes prepared for Purdue this week, it meant a little extra noise applied by the coaching staff. Throughout practice, the coaches would randomly blow a train horn to simulate the Boilermakers' train noise that echoes throughout Ross-Ade Stadium.
Standing on the indoor practice field Tuesday afternoon following the day's practice, sophomore offensive lineman Michael Brewster expressed his displeasure at the horn.
"I'm surprised I can hear you guys right now," he said. "I figured I'd be deaf after that practice. Sometimes I have to hold off on saying the snap count if they're in the middle of a horn blow. It's kind of annoying during practice."
Tressel said the coaches often bring out noisemakers like that during the week to help prepare the Buckeyes for loud conditions either at home or away, although the Buckeyes typically don't do it on Tuesdays like they did this week.
"I think you have to make it as difficult as possible to communicate because everything starts with communication," he said. "If you communication isn't right, then you're certainly not going to execute. You have to be able to communicate when you're away from home."
Junior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa didn't care about the reasoning behind the horn. Asked it if was worse than the lion's roar played at Penn State, and he said, "Yeah, this has to be the worst sound in college football."