The seventh installment in the Critical 20 series sees the appearance of the third safety, Jah'Shawn Johnson. Payton Hendrix, and Johnson’s backup Tevin Madison were the first two to make the cut. And the safety position will be an important one if Texas Tech’s defense is to improve enough to help the Red Raiders record a couple more wins than they did last season.
Safety is an all-around position. It is, of course, critical to clamping off an offense’s downfield passing attack, but is also very important in run support. The latter is particularly noteworthy when a defense is porous against the run, as Tech’s has been for many a moon.
Johnson, who received Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors in his first full season of play, is arguably Tech’s most accomplished safety. His 85 tackles last year was third best on the team and his four fumble recoveries topped Tech’s charts. Additionally, Johnson recorded 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, three passes broken up, five passes defended and two forced fumbles.
It is the all-important turnover category where Johnson shows up most clearly. He is almost always around the ball, and is surprisingly physical for a player of his diminutive stature. The fact that Johnson figures so prominently in turnover generation ensures that he will rarely leave the field.
But, very young player that he is, Johnson still has much room for improvement. All too often in 2015 he got crossed up in coverage, which resulted in several explosive plays and more than a few long touchdown passes. Johnson, whose father Keith Davis played several season as a safety and special teamer in the NFL, is reputed to be serious about film study, in which case he follows suit with Davis. Continued devotion to that activity, combined with another year in David Gibbs’ defensive system will theoretically result in sounder play from Johnson.
Packing on several extra pounds of muscle would also help his cause. With Johnson and Tevin Madison both tipping the scales at 180 and 175 pounds, respectively, there is just cause for concern over possible injury.
THE CRITICAL 20 SO FAR