Alabama’s Johnson off to a good start

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Only five games into his first season as an Alabama true freshman linebacker, it’s pretty impressive that former Andalusia player Nico Johnson has already seen significant playing time.

At the beginning of the season, Johnson was placed in the third-string middle linebacker, (“mike”) position behind starting junior Rolando McClain and sophomore Chris Jordan.

His first playing time came in the second game of the season against Florida International University, where he played on special teams.

Johnson played his best game in the North Texas game where he had three unassisted tackles and one assisted tackle.

Last Saturday, Johnson had one unassisted tackle against the University of Kentucky.

One week prior, doors started to open for Johnson when, in the Arkansas game, starting sophomore Dont’a Hightower was injured when his knee collided with a teammate’s helmet, which ended Hightower’s season.

So, I beg to ask, what did Alabama coach Nick Saban see in Nico to allow him to play in three games this season?

Was it his dedication to the team, hard work during the off-season or was it because he had confidence in Nico?

The answer to those questions came in last Friday’s Montgomery Advertiser.

In the article, “Deaderick plans to enjoy his Kentucky homecoming,” Saban said putting reserves (in this case, Johnson and Jordan) into a starting role is “always an option.”

“It’s always an option, but we really didn’t do that,” he said. “Nico has played ‘mike’ and ‘will,’ which for a young guy is a little bit of a burden.”

Saban continued to say in the same article that it’s not that the coaches don’t have confidence in what the freshmen can do, but it’s just a matter of if they are ready.

“As long as they are making progress, we’re pleased and happy with their progress,” Saban said. “I think they’re all going to be good football players but they’ve got to be ready to play. We’ve played freshmen linebackers two years in a row. Rolando (McClain) played two years ago. Dont’a played all last year. So it’s not that we wouldn’t play a freshman. We wouldn’t want to play guys who aren’t confident in what they are supposed to do and how to do it. We’ll continue to bring those guys along.”

With that statement, I believe Nico isn’t done this season.

He could even play in the tough Southeastern Conference games that lie ahead for his Crimson Tide team.

As to whether he’ll play in any of those games coming up in the season?

Look for the No. 35 jersey on special teams, because I know I will.