Johnson held down the position by himself in spring, but that changes in July with the anticipated New Jersey return of Kaiwan Lewis.
Lewis joins the program after he completes his undergraduate degree at South Carolina, and he is ready for competition.
“My goal is to just go in there and contribute,” said Lewis, who studied criminal justice at South Carolina. “I want to come in and adjust to my teammates quickly. I want to win the No. 1 job. That’s the goal. I’m ready to compete and become a leader for the defense and for the team and go forward into the season as a starting linebacker.”
Lewis started 10 games during his three seasons in the SEC, and looks forward to the opportunities presented by the Scarlet Knights.
“I played in the best conference down here in the SEC, and now the championship is back in the Big Ten,” Lewis said. “I’m moving to play in another great conference, maybe the best right now. That’s pretty exciting. I like that my family can come see me play.
“... There’s a great support system for me and for my family. It’s going to be great to have them around, and it’s a great way to go out as a senior.”
Rutgers recruited Lewis in high school under then coach Greg Schiano. Lewis built a relationship with position coach Bob Fraser, who returned to work for coach Kyle Flood after a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s big for me because it’s an NFL style defense,” Lewis said. “That’s important for me in my last year of college. I’m going to be preparing myself. It’s a big thing with coach Fraser there. He’s coached in the NFL. He got that defense going, and the Rutgers style under [defensive coordinator Joe] Rossi.”
Lewis plans to study urban planning when he begins Rutgers classes during the fall semester.
“It took a lot of work to do it in three years, because it takes some people four to six years to get there,” he said. “It’s big for me because I’ll be able to get started on my master’s degree.”