Senior outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson feels like he’s made a lot of progress since the end of last season. However, he feels like there’s still more work that needs to be done before the end of the year. Which in foresight could be horrible news for the rest of the conference.
Johnson met with the media for the first time Monday and discussed his expectations for himself going into his senior campaign.
“I need to be more violent, quite frankly,” Johnson said via Zoom. “I needed to be more violent in my game as a whole. I need my pass rush to be more technical with my movement. In JUCO, my athleticism got me far, but here you learn that technique takes you farther than anything. So I’ve been trying to learn my technique and improve every aspect of my game.”
If those things happen, Johnson will be a force to be reckoned with.
Johnson’s first year with the Bulldogs had its moments after transferring from Independence Community College and being featured in Netflix’s top-rated documentary Last Chance U.
Johnson played in all 14 games last season with one start against Murray State. He racked up 20 tackles, including 2.5 sacks for loss for 13 yards. Last season, Johnson combined with Nolan Smith and Azeez Ojulari to form one of the best outside linebacker units in the SEC.
Although he’s made progress since first arriving in Athens, Johnson isn’t completely satisfied with himself. Shortly after Georgia’s win over Baylor in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Johnson vowed that the 2020 season was going to be his stepping stone to get to the next level.
“Personally, I was very determined,” Johnson said. “I think I put my best on the field last year, personally, so I was really excited to come into the spring, prove some things, and work hard.”
Nonetheless, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic changed his plans.
Johnson didn’t get to participate in spring drills with his teammates, and was forced to move back home to Minnesota. Like many others, he had to find a way to stay in shape the best he could under the conditions set by the pandemic.
“My dad had purchased some weights and some other things that we had in our garage,” Johnson said. “I was keeping my head down, calling coach [Scott] Sinclair for some other things I could do just to get better, in terms of some speed stuff, because at the end of the day, I can’t just be lifting weights. I tried to bounce things off all my coaches as far as what I could do better since I wasn’t there. But I was really focused on not falling behind, because I know it’s easy for some guys to have that happen.”
That didn’t happen for Johnson, who has been drawing attention from his teammates and coaches for more than a year.
“Obviously Jermaine’s somebody we’re really, really excited about,” defensive coordinator Lanning said in August of 2019. “Jermaine’s a guy that when I was at Memphis, I went and watched a junior college football game, and I got to see Jermaine Johnson perform that year. I said, ‘Man, I wish I could recruit that guy,’ but I couldn’t. Well now this year, I can, and so when I got here, that was one of the early guys that I identified as a target for somebody that we could look at and was able to build a relationship with him that we had for a long time.”
Former teammate and current Tennessee Titan Isaiah Wilson explained why Kirby Smart has referred to him as “Superman” in the past.
“He long-armed me a couple of times,” Wilson told reporters in an interview last year. “I have to get my hands right with him. He’s super strong.”
With the season just around the corner, Johnson is ready more than ever, and he’s also excited to see what the Bulldogs’ outside linebackers corps can do this year. He’s also ready to do his part as well.
“I just try to ask my coaches what I can do better every single day in practice, and try to be whatever I can for my team, whether that is on special teams, or whatever,” he said. “Everyone has attributes; it just comes down to technique and will, how much passion you have for the game, and how much will you want to give to the program.”
Here is the video of Johnson’s interview: