We roll right along with our Rant Sports, SEC 50 Players in 50 Days series. Today, we jump back to the defensive side of the football and take a look at one of the best linebackers in the country, Nico Johnson of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Nico Johnson, LB, Alabama:
Johnson returns at linebacker for the Crimson Tide and will be a leader on a defense that lost a ton of talent. He will step in at middle linebacker looking to replace Dont’a Hightower, who was not only Alabama’s leading tackler but a two time team captain as well. Johnson was very active in 2011, as he finished the season with 43 tackles, which was good enough for fourth on the team. In and out of the starting lineup, based on offensive formations, Johnson should increase his workload in 2012.
Johnson will team with C.J. Mosley in the Tides 3-4 scheme. Both bring speed and quickness, and the ability to equally play the run or the pass. The big question mark for Alabama’s defense will be in the secondary. Gone is do it all safety Mark Barron, who was one of the best defensive players in the entire country in 2011. Also gone is Dre Kirkpatrick, who was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Of Johnson’s 43 tackles in 2011, 24 of those were solo. Johnson was a stat sheet stuffer as he had five tackles for loss, one sack, a forced fumble, one fumble recovery, an interception and three pass breakups. Johnson should only improve on his numbers in 2012 as he should see the field more consistently during nickel and dime defensive sets.