There’s something different about Brad Johnson entering his third year on South Carolina’s football team.
“It’s been good because he’s actually listening to some of the things I have said,” Gamecocks outside linebackers/buck coach Mike Peterson said. “I don’t think early on he was listening.”
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound junior, is working at the buck position along with D.J. Wonnum and freshman Rodricus Fitten this spring.
“He’s one of the guys in the group that has taken a really big leap,” Peterson said. “Right now, he has taken a big leap.”
Peterson, a 14-year NFL veteran, has been on Johnson to make that leap for the last two seasons, he said.
“He probably didn’t really believe some of the stuff I was saying, but he’s gone out and worked a couple of those things, and he’s like, ‘Woah, it actually worked,’” Peterson said. “I think he realized coach may realize a little bit of what he’s talking about.”
Johnson, who has played in 24 games in his career, had 24 tackles a year ago. With 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries, Johnson affected the quarterback more than any Gamecock other than T.J. Brunson (four sacks, three hurries) and Bryson Allen-Williams (two sacks, five hurries). Now he wants to improve on his ability to get to the quarterback.
“I have just been really focused on pass rushing (this spring),” Johnson said. “I feel like one of my specialties is playing the run, but I have been trying to perfect my pass rush skills and be in there all phases of the game.”
Johnson’s pass rush is aided by his “heavy hands,” Peterson said.
“He is heavy handed. He plays with his hands. He’s violent with his hands,” the coach said. “Now we want to get that motor where we are playing that way all the time.”
Johnson was a four-star prospect when he signed with South Carolina out of Pendleton High School.
“Coming out of high school, he was always strong, always fast,” Peterson said. “Now let’s make sure we are running in the right direction.”