Today we are staying on the defensive line with our player preview. Up next, it’s defensive tackle Austin Johnson. Although he didn’t make any starts in 2013, he appeared in every game. This season, with the departure of DaQuan Jones to the NFL, Johnson is expected to move into a starting role.
From Galloway, New Jersey, Johnson was a 3-star recruit coming out of St. Augustine Prep. He wasn’t highly recruited, but did receiver offers from Villanova, Syracuse, Boston College and Rutgers. While in high school, Johnson helped lead his team to a Cape-Atlantic League championship during his senior year. He was named to the all-state team during his senior season and also excelled on the basketball court.
Johnson was given a redshirt in 2012 and worked on the practice squad during that season. As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Johnson stood out to the coaching staff and fellow teammates during spring practice and offseason workouts. He showed his potential during the 2013 Blue-White Game by recording five tackles and two sacks.
Last season, his first on the field, Johnson played in all 12 games and started the fourth game of the year against Kent State. He finished with 27 total tackles and one sack. In the victory over Eastern Michigan, Johnson was swarming to the ball carrier and assisted on six tackles.
With a full season to his credit and some starting experience, Johnson should be at the top of the list for a starting defensive tackle spot in 2014. Anthony Zettel, who was switched to tackle from defensive end, will likely claim the spot beside Johnson on the line. Tarow Barney, Parker Cothren, Antoine White and Torrence Brown could all be in the mix for time at defensive tackle, but look for Johnson to see the most playing time.
If Johnson does indeed earn a starting spot, he should be able to put up somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 tackles and two sacks.