Aug. 3, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
As the 2012 edition of the NC State Wolfpack took the practice field Tuesday, one of the strengths of the team was its secondary. Last season, NC State led the nation with 27 interceptions, and the five players with the most experience are all returning this season.
Among those players returning is junior Dontae Johnson. Last season, Johnson served as the Pack’s nickleback and back-up at safety, logging 407 snaps including making two starts when the Pack opened in a 4-2-5 formation.
Johnson came on strong at the end of the season, as he averaged 47 snaps and 4.0 tackles in the last four games compared to 24.3 snaps and 1.8 tackles a game in the first nine games.
The coaches also moved Johnson around more at the end of the season, as he recorded three sacks in the final four games.
After the Pack’s bowl win over Louisville, the coaching staff had one more idea of taking advantage of Johnson’s versatility, getting him snaps at corner.
“In the spring, the coaches came to me and asked me to play some corner” said Johnson. “Of course I’m still learning, but I think it is working out really well here in fall camp.
“I’m getting more comfortable playing corner, and with more reps I’m continuing to get better.”
Johnson also mainly played safety while attending Pennington Prep in New Jersey, so he is continuing to learn on the job and is currently working at corner during the first week of camp.
“It is a bit of adjustment for me to be playing corner,” said Johnson. “Recognizing the play and what routes the receivers are running, and the speed of the game are all at a different perspective then the safety position.”
A fan of the game of football since he was young, Johnson credits his fondness of watching football to be able to learn so much about the game.
“Watching football from a young age, I think that has just helped my instincts out on the field,” said Johnson. “Just continuing to understand and improving my knowledge of how to play, I’ve always been a huge fan of the game.
“I feel everything the coaches throw at me I’m able to grasp and understand, and I think that is why they are able to trust me so much by moving me around.”
Johnson’s position coach, defensive back coach Mike Reed, had no reservations about Johnson being able to make the move.
“He is a highly intelligent kid, with a great football IQ,” said Reed. “When you ask players to know what the guy next to you is suppose to be doing, Dontae is able to comprehend that and execute so well. That has allowed him to make the adjustment to playing more corner so far this fall.”
Johnson is just as appreciative to the coaching staff for having the trust in him to make such a switch.
“I have to give credit to the coaches that they have trust in me to put me in positions to help this team make plays,” said Johnson. “If they keep giving me these opportunities, I’m going to take advantage of them.
After less then a week into fall practice, Johnson and the Pack still have a few weeks to work on the basics before game planning for the August 31 opener against Tennessee.
“I have to continue to learn the position (cornerback),” said Johnson. “Route recognition
is a huge part when you are out at corner, being able to break and make big plays.
“With (David) Amerson on the other side, quarterbacks might not be throwing as much in his direction, so I have to be ready for that challenge.”