It’s been a while since the Oregon Ducks had an inside linebacker that one could mention in the same breath with the likes of Wesley Mallard, Tom Graham, or Ernest Jones. Well, that’s about to change with incoming freshman Andrew Johnson from Tift County High School, in Tifton, Georgia.
Jones who is expected to sign with the Ducks February 7th, lives less than 100 miles from Tallahassee, Florida. The Florida State Seminoles are among some twenty programs to offer him, though most are from the South Eastern Conference (S.E.C.).
He is listed as a three-star recruit by ESPN.com. And Jeff Sentell of Dawgnation.com quoting another source, also rates him as a three-star recruit. But at a different position, and therein lies the rub. Where do you play him? Defensive line as ESPN.com suggests? Outside linebacker as the above referenced reporter from Dawgnation.com states? I’m going to assume based upon the athlete in question and the Oregon Ducks depth chart, they are going to try him first at inside linebacker.
I haven’t seen any evidence that Andrew Johnson has participated in any sanctioned event where he was officially measured, weighed, or timed. However there is some consensus between what the national media lists him at and what his Hudl.com profile depicts.
I haven’t seen any info available as to his arm length or hand size. But based upon similar athletes his arm length should 32-1/2″ to 34-1/4″ long. His hands should be slightly larger than the normal 9-1/2″, maybe up to 9-3/4″
His Hudl.com profile lists his 40 clock at 4.58. If this is true, then his triangle numbers are Elite. I went back and looked at The Great Blue North’s NFL Draft Rankings for 2016 and 2017 for Inside Linebackers. Based upon triangle numbers alone, he would have been one of the top-five Inside Linebackers taken in the last two NFL Drafts. All of these guys went in the first three rounds.
Andrew Johnson possesses an excellent skill set. He is a big, fast athlete for this position. He is a sideline-to-sideline guy with the ability to sink his hips and change direction effortlessly. At the “ready” position he displays flexibility and plays on the balls of his feet.
He is flexible or “bendy”….
In the clip above Andrew Johnson comes up and fills the hole. Notice him tackle too high in a “bear hug” around the shoulders.
And here is another clip….
Johnson fills the hole again, only this time he demonstrates better tackling technique going low to get the running back on the ground.
He can Flash his sub-4.6 Speed…
Not many defensive tackles at the high school level can chase down a D1-bound running back. The running back shown above (J.D. King) went on to commit to Oklahoma State. Watch Johnson catch King in the clip above.
Great Reactions to “Sudden” changes in the Game…
Talented playmakers make plays when the opportunity presents itself. In the clip above Johnson doesn’t miss a beat as he scoops up a fumble and returns it for a touchdown. Great players make difficult plays look easy.
He is a Sideline-To-Sideline Guy…
In the clip above, Andrew Johnson blows up a “bubble” screen half-way across the field for minimal gain.
He can Sink his hips and Change Direction…
The ability to change direction (“suddenness”) is the difference between a three-down linebacker and a guy that’s just a run-stopper. An elite linebacker doesn’t need to come off the field in passing downs.
Who He Reminds Me Of…
C.J. Mosley of the Baltimore Ravens. Mosley was selected No. 17 (overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft from the University of Alabama. C.J. Mosley and Andrew Johnson share very similar triangle numbers and athleticism. They both possess the size, speed and flexibility to be “three down” linebackers.
Other inside linebackers of similar size and athleticism are Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs who was taken with the No. 15 (overall) pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks. Wagner was selected in the second round (No. 47 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Andrew Johnson possesses the size, speed, and flexibility to be an effective defender against the run. He recognizes keys and diagnoses the play quickly and possesses the sideline-to-sideline speed and change-of-direction “suddenness” on the perimeter. Between the tackles, he does a nice job of bending and filling the hole. He is an aggressive tackler.
It is an asset (and a luxury) to have an inside linebacker with the speed and flexibility to be able to drop back into the middle zones. He can degrade an opponent’s slant-game with wide receivers or the seam routes that are in vogue today with tight ends and H-backs. Andrew Johnson can do this. He also demonstrated the ability to degrade a bubble screen on the perimeter.
Andrew Johnson is an Elite talent. He has the size and athleticism to be a starter at Oregon from Day 1. Barring injury, he will be a dominant force in the middle for the Ducks for three years and then will be off to the NFL.
Michael Kelly “ChicoDuck”
Top Photo: from YouTube