August 31, 2010

Jason Johnson & teammates prep for season opener

As GBK stated in our August 13th article, coming into the 2009 season, the offensive line was not only the biggest question mark, and rightfully so, but it was also the biggest concern.

This fact had little to do with lack of talent, because the talent was there or at least the potential was there. But it was the transition into an entirely new offensive scheme that all honest observers knew would take at least the first quarters of the season if not longer to look like a unit that was in sync with one another.

As the season progressed, so did the guys up front and that continued through both the spring and summer practices.

The front five is senior heavy first unit, but included in the two deep is a sprinkle of youth as well. For this group, they continue their preparation for Army's much anticipated season opener against Eastern Michigan.

GoBlackKnights.com had a chance to catch up with one the elder statesmen in senior right tackle Jason Johnson prior to hitting the practice field today and making his customary stop for treatment.

"I'm feeling great actually," says the Las Flores, California native, when discussing his injury and treatment. "Fall camp is kind of a hindrance with my knee and groin, but I'm good to go."

Johnson knows that there is a buzz around the program and that many observers truly feel that this is the year the Black Knights move to the next level as a program. But the tackle also knows that they are in no position to look beyond Eastern Michigan and must take one game at a time.

"We are just …. Everyone is ecstatic about the game on Saturday," he says.

"People (teammates) have minute and hour countdowns on their Facebook. Talking to the guys, they are saying they can't wait to hit some guys with different color uniforms. Everyone is excited and we are planning some big things for the season."

EXPERIENCE

When asked to translate the difference in the line his season versus 2009, Johnson not hesitate to note that there is an obvious difference.

"The number word is experience," bellows Johnson.

"Everyone knows what they are doing, on every play, versus every defense on every down. When it comes to Trent Steelman , Max Jenkins or Chip Bowden , whoever it is, there's that confidence in the huddle. It's that experience factor. From last year we were a little shaky going into the first game - alright … what happens if they go into that defense or this defense. There is no second guessing now - it's all confidence and everyone is ready to go."

For Johnson and crew, they know that as they go, the offense goes. They also know that overall it is a new stable of running backs that can change the complexion of any game at any moment.

GAME BREAKERS

"The leadership is outstanding," states Johnson, as he acknowledges starting running back Jason JohnsonPatrick Mealy's contribution to bring along his inexperienced running mates. "Pat has been an outstanding leader on this team. He has taken the running backs, B backs, A backs and taken them under his wing and showing them what it's all about and playing football here."

Johnson also had his own observation of starters Jared Hassin , Malcolm Brown and plebe, Raymond Maples .

"Hassin … he's excited and ready to go. After sitting out last season he is full of energy and you can see it in practice where he is giving full effort every play."

"Malcolm is great guy and I was talking to him the other day and he is fired up and ready to go. He said just give me the rock and I will put it in the end zone every time," shares a laughing Johnson. Whoever we play I go one or two lines deep. I try to find their background, where they football in high school, who they are as a player, their motives and watch a lot of film on them."

"Maples … he's an awesome back. He finds holes and I don't know how he finds them. He is a fast, quick and versatile."

With the game right around the corner and with music to match the pre-game and game day moment … Johnson, like with most players, there is always something popping in their IPod or CD player.

So, what music is taking residence in his music compartment? "Actually I broke my IPod last year, so I haven't had music the last two years," says a laughing Johnson. "I'm a big fan of Lincoln Park … I like a lot of easy listening the night before. Not until the bus ride do I get ramped up and try to keep in mellow. But come game time I stick to like sound tracks like Lion King … something weird."

Aside from his music ritual, Johnson also relies on being a student of his competition. "I change it (rituals) up every year, but one thing that consistent each year is doing my homework on the player I will be going against," confirms Johnson.

Steelman and company are surely hoping that Johnson's homework pays dividends as they hit the road in their 2010 opener against Eastern Michigan.


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