One-on-One with Lyndell Johnson

They don't make linebackers like they used to – at least not in the Big 12. The days of pure run-stopping backs are gone with the emergence of the spread offense. Linebackers have become hybrid defensive backs that are expected to be quick in coverage, and powerful rushing the passer.

At Oklahoma State, there's one linebacker in particular that fits the new-age mold: Lyndell Johnson. Johnson, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Plano, Texas, brings that versatility. After big wins against Iowa State and TCU this season, OSU head coach Mike Gundy credited Johnson as a key player in the defense's revival.

It hasn't been all positive for Johnson this season. He was carted off the field pregame of the Arizona match up. He didn't return until Iowa State four games later. But in just five games this season, Johnson has recorded 13 tackles (4.5 for loss), two sacks and an interception.

He sat down with Go Pokes to discuss his injury, his role on the defense and what's ahead for the Cowboys:

What were the circumstances that led to your injury?
Johnson: "After the first game, I felt pretty good. I felt comfortable and I knew the plays. I thought I was just getting going when someone hit my right leg, my fibula. I kept on practicing, we got down to Arizona and it just popped when I was trying to get a ball (in warmups). I didn't know what it was, but I know heard the pop. When I got x-rays, they said it was broken.

"I'm thinking, ‘Now I've got to be out for the rest of the season, I might need surgery.' But the doctor told me the good thing is it's a non-weight-bearing bone. It heals on its own, so I didn't have to get surgery. The question then was how long was I going to be out? He said four to six weeks, and that's how long I was out. Injuries are disappointing, but they're a part of football. You just have to live with it. I was just glad to get back on the field as soon as possible. Now, I'm back up and rolling."

Did your psyche affect your play when you were fully recovered?
Johnson: "I wasn't worried about getting hit or anything, because I had a pad over it. But I was still a little iffy on some cuts, back pedaling and breaking to the ball. But as I got back going, I started getting that comfort back. That helped it out a lot."

What do you believe is your role on the defense?
Johnson: "Knowing that everyone is starting to move to the spread, you've got to have versatile players that can cover the field. I feel like with my size, I can do that. I use that to my advantage.

Do you believe the defense is playing its best right now?
Johnson: "It's starting to click. We've had some ups-and-downs during the season. We've just got to buy in and come together as a team. We've got to dig down deep and just go. Kansas State was a disappointment, but we got our confidence back this past week. I feel like we're going to get this thing back the way we're supposed to."

With the changing mentality of Big 12 offenses and how the OSU offense plays, does the defense feel more confident playing a team like Texas Tech than Kansas State?
Johnson: "Kansas State is more of a running team, a downhill team. But with a spread team – we go against it about every day. The stuff they're doing is no surprise to us, we're used to it. We've just got to be in the right position to make plays and go from there.

How does the defense keep momentum rolling with a difficult stretch of games to end the season?
Johnson: "At the end of the season, it's one of those deals where we've just got to stay together, not lose focus and take it a day at a time. We know that the next game is always the most important game. We can't lose that focus, especially at the end of the season. Some teams get tired and want football season to be over – we don't. We feel like right now we're ready to get going. We're ready for the challenge."

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