Pressure Imperative

ATLANTA, GA - Ole Miss DE C.J. Johnson likens TCU QB Trevone Boykin to Auburn's Nick Marshall. Translation: The Rebel defensive front has to be on their game.

"Coach (Chris) Kiffin has been stressing pressure and containment all week. Pocket awareness is very important. Getting push from the inside two and not over-rushing is also important," said Rebel Defensive End C.J. Johnson. "We have to do that from the front four so we can drop seven and help those guys on the back end a little bit.

"Boykin reminds me of Nick Marshall, but when Boykin scrambles he's not just looking to run. He's still thinking pass, so we have to be careful not to get sucked in to that thinking. We have to keep pursuing, containing and covering."

Against a spread team, immediate pressure is critical.

"We've done well with that all year, that and stopping the run. The key for us will be to be locked in on our assignments and go out and play Ole Miss football," C.J. added.

What has gotten the Rebels to the level of number one scoring defense in the nation in C.J.'s mind?

"Brotherhood," he said quickly. "The guy next to us is our brother. We want to make sure he is successful and the only way to do that is to do our part and not let our brother down and vice-versa.

"The bond we have speaks volumes on and off the field."

Looking forward, Johnson believes more good things are in store for the Rebels.

"I absolutely feel like we will be contenders for big things again next year," he declared. "We deserved the national attention we got this year even though we had a couple of hiccups. We were two plays, in my mind, from being in the final four and I see no reason why we can't be in that conversation again next year."

The one thing that sticks in C.J.'s craw was the Arkansas game. He still has a hard time swallowing it.

"Our hearts were there, but I'm not sure we all understood the magnitude of the game and I think some of us were looking past Arkansas to Mississippi State," he noted. "That was a big mistake that still bothers me, even though we won the Egg Bowl.

"I don't believe we will make that mistake again, and I am not taking anything away from Arkansas. They may have beaten our 'A' game for all I know, but we didn't give it to them. We will learn from that."

C.J. said for the Rebels to keep performing at this level, the bond, the leadership and the work ethic has to continue.

"Cody and D.T. did a great job leading our defense this year," Johnson said modestly, discounting his big leadership role. "I believe we will have the same approach next year, but every team has their own DNA and next year's will be different.

"We will still be the Landshark defense, but the older guys will have to impress on the younger guys the commitment it takes to be a part of this defense. To start spring, that will be missing at first, but we will develop it."

C.J. will be at the front of delivering that message.

"Absolutely I will, every day. I will come to work every day and will expect everyone on our team to do the same. Mike Hilton is a vocal leader and we have a lot of guys who take the 'I'll show you what I got and you have to match it' approach to leadership, like Rob (Nkemdiche). Those guys are critical too to the development of a unit," C.J. touted.

C.J. feels an obligation to lead, but it's one he cherishes.

"I owe it to my team and my university to step up and take over some of the void that will be left from Cody and D.T. graduating. Next year will be my senior year and I intend for it to be as good or better than this year and will accept nothing less," he closed.

But before that blossoms, the Peach Bowl and TCU is in C.J.'s sites.

"At the start of the year, if you had told me the number one scoring defense was going to be playing the number two scoring offense, that's a game I would have paid to see," he smiled. "Now, I'm playing in it.

"We can't wait to see how this game plays out. They will get our best shot and I'm sure we'll get theirs. You better not blink, because there will be a lot of fireworks."

Indeed.


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