13 June 2008
| Rashad Johnson - #49 - FS - 6-0 - 187 lbs. - Sulligent, AL - Sulligent HS - 3 Varsity Letters
From walk-on running back to All-SEC Safety and 2007 permanent team captain; that’s the story for Rashad Johnson. He was easily Bama’s best performer on defense in 2007, leading the team in tackles with 94 and interceptions with 6. He was also the guy for the Bama defense before plays, making all of the on-field calls and making certain that everyone was lined up correctly on every play.
There was an off-season bump in the road with an arrest for disorderly conduct, though a settlement was reached, and after performing a few hours of community service, the case was dismissed. Not, however, before Nick Saban came out in vehement support of Johnson, demonstrating the relationship that Johnson has formed with his head coach (and de facto position coach). Any questions that might have arisen about his character were quickly shot down by his head coach, and with the way that he handled the situation.
One of Bama’s fastest players, he uses that speed in combination with his intelligence, feel for the game, and willingness to be physical to be a dominant force in Bama’s secondary. Nick Saban talks often about wanting his defensive backs to be physical, but also requiring a lot of them mentally, with numerous, complex coverage packages, while still expecting them to be active in run support. Considering his background as a RB, and the fact that coming into the season, he had just 40 tackles, it is easy to say that seeing him becoming the leader of the defense in 2007 was the most pleasant surprise of the season.
It's rare for an All-SEC player to be more important off of the field than on it, but that might just be the case with Rashad. He is well respected by his coaches and teammates, and in an era of sports where the word "leadership" is used as often as it is, Rashad thrives in his role. A very vocal player, Rashad is frequently seen moving from group to group in pregame warm-ups, ensuring that his teammates are ready to play.
: As the talent level around him continues to increase, Nick Saban will doubtless use his safeties in more complex ways. The development of a young and inexperienced front 7 on defense will likely be key in giving Coach Saban, his new Associate Head Coach/Defensive Head Coach Kevin Steele, and newly promoted Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart the freedom to fully use Johnson.
He has been named to Nagurski Award watch list (the award is given annually to college football’s best DB), and with good reason. Another season in the strength and conditioning program will likely see Johnson approach 200 lbs., which will allow him to play an even more physical style of football. I expect him to once again be a permanent team captain, to once again be All-SEC, and next spring to see him drafted during the first day of the NFL Draft.