With big Blue-White game, T.J. Johnson tosses hat into the ring for more CB reps this fall
STATE COLLEGE — Penn State has depth concerns at a few positions. Cornerback is not one of them.
It’s why the gasp wasn’t as audible, fairly or unfairly, when reports broke that longtime starter and Big Ten honorable mention pick John Reid would miss most, if not all, of the 2017 season with a knee injury. The line of guys behind him was long, and while somewhat unproven, still pretty talented.
Names like Christian Campbell, Amani Oruwariye, and Lamont Wade quickly filled potential replacement lists, and with good reason, as the first two are veteran players who have done a lot of nice work in blue and white over the years, and the last one is a spark plug true freshman who enrolled in January with a desire to play from day one.
One name that wasn’t mentioned much? T.J. Johnson. But, after he made five tackles, snared an interception, and netted a tackle for loss in Saturday’s Blue-White game, one could only wonder if maybe he should have been.
“I think I showed a great display of what I can do,” Johnson said after the game. “My role on this team right now, just really learn as much as I can, and do whatever they ask me to do.”
Reid has been helping too.
“He helps us young guys as much as possible, just with the little stuff,” Johnson said.
A three-star recruit out of Cleveland, Ohio, Johnson was a late addition to Penn State’s Class of 2016 but is now the biggest corner on the roster at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. At worst, he’s a big body for special teams and at best, he’ll develop into a shutdown defender when matching up against the opponent’s biggest receiver.
His Blue-White performance indicated he might just be trending toward becoming the latter.
“Everyone is giving me raves about [Saturday’s] performance, but I’m not satisfied,” Johnson said. “With the opportunity to play with John Reid out, I feel like if I lose it, if I don’t play as much, or if I do play, it was because I put the work in, it was because I work hard.
“I’m more comfortable with the details now, and that’s getting in your playbook. I’m more familiar with it, it’s like second nature.”
Check out Penn State’s 2017 recruiting class