All you really need to know about Texas linebacker Gary Johnson can be found in his Twitter handle.
@_GaryJohnson’s banner includes these words: I Hate QB’s & RB’s.
Johnson, a trendy preseason choice for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a preseason Butkus Award candidate, allowed his feelings to manifest into action the past three games. He racked up 25 tackles, 16 of them unassisted, and one sack among his six tackles for a loss for 21 yards.
Throw in a pair of quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble in his past three games, all of them Texas wins.
The Longhorns climbed back into the Associated Press poll this week, to No. 18, on the strength of its defense, which has dominated the second half the last two weeks to help Texas beat No. 22 USC and No. 17 TCU.
“I take every game as a challenge and I want to make an impact every time I take the field,” Johnson said.
Johnson was outspoken after the ‘Horns took down TCU. The defense played with a chip on its shoulder after hearing about how fast TCU would be.
Johnson was tabbed as the Big 12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week two weeks ago after recording four tackles for loss in Texas’ victory over USC, the most for a Texas player in a single game since 2014. Johnson then registered 11 tackles, one for a loss, in the win last Saturday against TCU.
“Playing defense is about being tough, it’s about running as hard as you can to the football on every play, and it’s about making hits that can change a game,” Johnson said. “That’s what I’m always trying to do.”
Johnson, a senior who came to Texas last year after playing at Dodge City (Kansas) Community College, has already asserted himself as the Longhorns’ do-everything linebacker and as one of the team’s leaders.
At 6-foot and 230 pounds, he might be a little undersized to be a constant run stuffer, but plays bigger than his size and hits as hard as anyone in college football.
“The one thing that’s really hard to teach, if at all, is physicality,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “You’ve got to really like hitting to be a linebacker, to be good. Gary does.”
–Steve Habel (@SteveHabel), Field Level Media