From walk-on to starter, meet safety Devin Johnson

Most athletic, high school recruits would jump at the chance to play on offense in college.

TCU safety Devin Johnson might be the exception.

Johnson came to TCU as a preferred walk-on after passing up opportunities to play at Big 12 schools such as Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

His reasoning? Defense.

Johnson played safety at Moore High School in Moore, OK, a suburb just south of Oklahoma City. But that’s something he wouldn’t have been able to do had he gone to Texas Tech or OSU, as coaches there wanted him to move to offense.

Plus, TCU just felt right.

“I had opportunities to go to either Texas Tech or OSU,” Johnson said. “But the school I really wanted to go to was TCU because I’d seen that they play hard and that’s the type of player I am. I love to play hard.”

But starting out, things weren’t easy at for Johnson. As a preferred walk-on, Johnson was assured a spot on the team when he arrived in the Fall of 2008. But that didn’t mean he was assured any playing time.

Johnson redshirted his first year and only saw game action four times in 2009, racking up just one tackle, a solo stop in the Fiesta Bowl. Johnson saw no action last year.

But he never lost faith, knowing that if he wanted playing time, he’d have to earn it the hard way.

“Coming here and being a preferred walk-on I was just realizing that I was always going to have to work hard,” Johnson said. “And if I keep working hard and doing the right things it would pay off.”

And this year, it has.

Johnson has played in all seven of TCU’s games this year and has racked up 14 tackles, six of which came in the Frogs’ 69-0 win over New Mexico Saturday. More so than that, Johnson has strengthened a TCU secondary that struggled early in the season.

In Johnson’s two starts this season – against San Diego State and New Mexico – the Frogs’ secondary has arguably played their best defense, limiting Ryan Lindley and the Aztecs’ passing attack and shutting out the Lobos.

His secret?

TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson said it’s simple: Johnson’s coachable.

“He can handle coaching and he can handle adjustments,” Patterson said. “When you’re part of our secondary and you can handle adjustments, then we can make them. It’s been a positive for us getting him in the ball game.”

Johnson agreed and said that keeping simple is key in TCU’s defense.

“With our defense, we have a net system and if you get out of that net bad things happen,” Johnson said. “But if you just go out there and do your responsibility and not always try to make the plays and realize that you have other great players around you and you do your job then everything will pay off. It works great.”

Left tackle Thompson goes down with injury

Patterson didn’t say much after the game regarding the status of left tackle Michael


Thompson was injured in the third quarter and had to be helped off the field. No official word on the seriousness of the injury or any details surrounding it, but Patterson mentioned that injuries not involving any other players, like the one suffered by Thompson Saturday, usually don’t turn out well.

“It was a non-contact injury, though,” Patterson said. “That’s usually not real good.”

In the meantime, sophomore James Dunbar will replace Thompson on the depth chart. Dunbar was in the running for the starting job at left tackle before the season but was ruled academically ineligible prior to the Frogs’ first game. Patterson said Dunbar has been cleared academically, though.

Patterson not happy with the kickers

If there was one negative from Saturday’s game, it may have been the kicking game.

Ross Evans broke the Mountain West scoring record with an extra point in the first quarter but the senior missed a point after in the second quarter and booted two kickoffs out of bounds.

And, to make matters worse, backup kicker Ryan Denucci knocked a kick out of bounds in the third quarter with TCU up 55-0.

A steady breeze flowed throughout the stadium Saturday, but Patterson said because of the closed-off endzones, the wind doesn’t play much of a factor on the field.

“I can promise you this: I’m not blaming the wind,” Patterson said. “I’m going to let them go out an play defense on the 40-yard line sometime. Let them play nose guard. For the kicker to kick the ball out of bounds, it’s inexcusable. The field is 55 yards wide. It’s inexcusable.”