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The Five Most Pleasant Surprises of 2007: #3 - Rashad Johnson

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Coming into this season, the safety position was one of some concern. Per OTS on his old blog:

Johnson plays hard, but it's difficult to see him becoming more than just a replacement-level player. He is a former walk-on, and honestly his specialty may very well be special teams more than anything else. As mentioned earlier, he plays hard, but generally speaking there was just little-to-no production from him in 2006. Despite playing over 400 snaps, he registered only 26 tackles, no sacks, no interceptions, and no passes broken up. The Tennessee game provides a great example: despite Ainge throwing almost 50 passes and Johnson playing 60 snaps, he ended up with only two tackles (one solo, one assist), and no passes defensed of any kind. He seems like a good kid and a tough player, but there's just not much production to speak of from him.

What a difference an offseason can make. Johnson went from a likely special teamer to a defensive star this season, starting all thirteen games while leading the team in tackles (94 total, 57 solo) and interceptions (6 for 64 yards), and was second on the team behind Simeon Castille in passes defended with eight to his ten. By season's end, the former walk on running back was First Team All-SEC, and would be named Co-Defensive Player of the Year (with Wallace Gilberry) by the coaching staff. More than that, though, he was also made a Permanent Team Captain, an honor typically reserved for Seniors.