Texas linebacker Gary Johnson (33) celebrates his stop during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

The Texas 22: Starting at linebacker — Gary Johnson

The former JUCO star known for his sideline-to-sideline speed also can deliver a big hit.

Posted August 23rd, 2018

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We’re breaking down what we think will be Texas’ starting lineup. We’re doing two a day, one offensive and one defensive player, in alphabetical order on both sides.

Gary Johnson

Senior linebacker, 6-0, 230

JUCO: Dodge City C.C. (Kans.)

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Signing class: 2017

Career games: 13

Career starts: 7

Career numbers: 60 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, two sacks

Who he was — before Texas

Johnson was a three-sport star at Douglas High School (Ala.) during his prep career, even winning the Class 5A state title in the 100-meters with a time of 10.59. From high school, Johnson ended up at Dodge City Community College in Kansas, where he’d go on to set records as a sideline-to-sideline linebacker with a nose for the football. In two years, he set a school record with 215 tackles. He also recorded 11.5 sacks and five interceptions. This earned him the honor of becoming the No. 1-ranked inside linebacker in the JUCO ranks in the 2017 class. He chose Texas after not being able to transfer to Alabama due to an SEC rule.

Baylor wide receiver Trevor White is tackled by UT linebacker Gary Johnson (33) in the first half at McLane Stadium in Waco on Saturday October 28, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Who Johnson has been here — so far

It didn’t take long for him to become a constant presence at linebacker next to Malik Jefferson. Johnson’s speed and instincts are too rare to keep off the field, especially in a conference that demands athletic linebackers to blitz and cover in space. He played in all 13 games, starting seven, and finishing with 60 tackles and two sacks. Six of his tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. He led the team with 10 tackles in the bowl win over Missouri and planted himself as the leader of the linebackers group heading into 2018.

Who Texas needs him to be this season

Johnson’s dislike of opposing quarterbacks and running backs is evident on his Twitter page. His Twitter name has long been “I Hate QB’s & RB’s.” The pinned tweet on Johnson’s profile is a claim that he’s located “in a backfield near you.” The UT defense, though, needs those online boasts to remain on-field realities.

Tom Herman has referred to Johnson as a “hammerhead.” While describing Johnson’s speed last year, ex-UT linebacker Naashon Hughes said, “I’m from a track city. He’s for real about his speed.” Johnson’s ability to unleash that physicality and speed will determine how successfully Texas can replace Jefferson and his team-high 110 tackles at the rover linebacker position.​

Filling in the lineup

So far …

THE OFFENSE

QB: Former Westlake star Sam Ehlinger was born to lead the Longhorns

RB —

WR —

WR —

WR: Jerrod Heard’s journey to wide receiver has been a winding one

TE: Andrew Beck is eager to return from last year’s injury

LT: Calvin Anderson is back where he started (playing football in Austin)

LG —

C —

RG —

RT —

THE DEFENSE

DE: Texas hopes Breckyn Hager can revert to the 2016 version of himself

DT —

DL —

DE —

LB —

LB: Gary Johnson’s favorite destination spot? Wherever the ball is.

LB —

CB: Kris Boyd: Is the former Gilmer star ready to be UT’s alpha corner?

CB: Davante Davis gives Texas experience at the corner spot

NB —

S —

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