Coach Jim Reid pushes Cam Johnson through his workout.
When new Virginia coach Mike London came to town, it was obvious that that there would have to be several position changes on the defensive side of the ball to accommodate the scheme change from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3. Before spring practice began, figuring out who those players would be might have involved planting a microphone in London’s office as he met with players – with the exception, perhaps, of Cam Johnson.
Even as media and others speculated that former coach Al Groh would be fired during the 2009 season, simultaneous discussion began about what Johnson might look like as a 4-3 defensive end. Johnson’s freakish athleticism complementing an impressive 6’4″, 255-pound frame made him an easy candidate to make that move from outside linebacker.
“It’s a hybrid type of athlete [at defensive end],” Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid said. “What you’re looking for is really a kind of athlete that can run, is quick. Doesn’t have to be overly tall – but it would help. Doesn’t have to be overly huge – but it helps. As long as they can run.”
Johnson has those qualities – and, as Reid pointed out, his size and physique “help” as well. Now, the trick for Johnson is to adjust from a two-point stance to a three-point stance. He says it’s going fine so far.
“Our coaches are doing a great job of coaching me up, and teaching me to be in the right situations,” Johnson said, “and giving me the opportunity to just try to adjust to the schemes.”
Interestingly, Reid said that Johnson is “still standing up in some defenses that we have.” But, Reid added, “Right now he’s got his hand down on the ground, and I think he’s got some real excellent potential of getting off the football, and holding the line of scrimmage like you have to as an end. He’s a great young man to work with; he’s terrific.”
Helping Johnson acclimate to the new system are Reid and defensive line coach Jeff Hanson – “I think it was...
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