Trumaine Johnson has been a warrior in the Montana Grizzlies secondary for four years. He started at corner as a freshman, a rare feat at Montana, after having been recruited out of California as a wide receiver. Coaches saw his destiny at corner, and trusting those coaches resulted in a 15-interception career as one of the best defensive players the school has ever had.
Trumaine was not a totally unknown commodity coming out of high school. He was an All-Conference basketball player, as well as a high school legend at quarterback and defensive back. He had interest from both Arizona State and California but chose to attend Montana.
He has garnered a bit of a following amongst draftniks and scouts. Let's take a look at his game:
Trumaine Johnson has always been one of the players coaches would prefer to come off the bus first. The reason? Intimidation.
The fact of the matter is, he is bigger than most of what you find at the corner position in college football. He measured in at the NFL combine a hair under 6'2" and 204 lbs. He has well-built arms, solid muscle mass to fill out his lengthy frame and a good base.
His size for the corner position in the NFL straddles that gray area between "elite" and so big that one questions if he can move the way he needs to in order to play the position. However, that latter is a different category for discussion. He passes the eyeball test with flying colors.
At the 2012 NFL Combine, Trumaine Johnson recorded an "official" time in the 40-yard dash of 4.61 seconds.
Obviously, that is not a good time for the position.
However, to be fair to Trumaine, it was not an accurate measurement. I have railed at the "official" 40-yard dash times in several articles and choose not to spend too much time on the subject in this one.
Suffice it to say, there is nothing "official" about those times as quite literally no team in the NFL uses the "official" times in their evaluation. There is often, especially in this particular Combine, a very wide variance between the "official" time and the times that scouts generally recorded off their stopwatches.
I re-time these players using high definition video and some snazzy software. The trick is developing consistent, replicable standards for when to start and end the counts. I believe I have done that, as I start the count in the final frame where the back foot of the player has yet to leave the turf from his starting stance.
These times have proven to be eerily exact as a means of replicating the unofficial stopwatch times that come from scouts themselves.This gives my technique the benefit of comparability with past unofficial combine times that came from scouts, rather than the "official" times that nobody uses.
Another benefit of using video to re-do all the times with these standards is the uniformity. By starting the count off the back foot leaving the turf from the player's stance, you are no longer over-sensitive to silly and completely irrelevant differences in start techniques. You are very literally measuring how fast each player managed to step-step-step across a distance of 40 yards.
My re-timing of Trumaine at the NFL combine showed two identical 40-yard dash measurements of 4.50 seconds. This puts him only a little bit slower than Morris Claiborne, whom I re-timed at about 4.47 seconds on both his 40-yard dash runs.
While the proximity to Claiborne's time may speak highly of Johnson's speed to some, the fact of the matter is the NFL seeks an ideal at the position that measures consistently into the low 4.4s and even the 4.3s.
Trumaine Johnson is one of the few defensive backs in this draft to have shown a consistent ability to break on and intercept the football.
He had four interceptions as a freshman at Montana, five the following year, another four in 2010 and added two more in 2011.
He spots the ball in the air very well and has the ability to stay balanced, focused and in control of his body even while moving backward. This is no easy feat. He is not one of those players you worry about having a lot of chances at the ball but never capitalizing.
Before anyone gets upset, I do realize it seems overly harsh to flatly describe a man's character as a "weakness."
But the fact of the matter is, Trumaine Johnson has made mistakes, and he has to live with those mistakes. He recognizes that and has discussed it with the media. All I am doing is recognizing the same.
As a locker room personality, most describe him in positive terms as a joker; someone who keeps the locker room atmosphere light. When this type of player shows dedication and the ability to stay out of trouble, that can work.
However, when that type of locker room persona repeatedly misses games due to eligibility issues and gets tased by police officers responding to a late-night complaint about a party Johnson attended, that persona can be questioned a little bit.
I do not know if he is a good guy or a bad guy. I have never sat down with him, nor had a phone conversation with him. I just know that there are events in his past along with other behaviors that will cause some raised eyebrows. His corner coach, Aric Williams, seems to think that Trumaine's attitude and approach did not really come around until this past year.
Technique is both strength and weakness for Trumaine Johnson.
I see plenty of things to praise in his technique. He stays low in his stance and his back pedal and keeps his feet shuffling low to the ground, so as not to waste time. He uses the proper footwork on his "T" breaks and slant breaks. He shows the ability to use proper press technique.
He's a very heady player who does a good job disguising his bail technique so that the quarterback cannot key it before the snap. He also excels in play recognition, identifying assignments and being decisive in certain situations.
However, the consistency in all this is not necessarily there.
My praise for his press technique was faint and technical, noting that he shows the "ability" to do it right. The fact of the matter is, he does not always do it right. Far too often he ends up using his inside hand on the jam, which enables the receiver to slap it away and get a clean go.
Perhaps more worrisome is the fact his breaks-out-of-bail technique are consistently slow and do not show a high level of anticipation, nor the quick hips you desire at the position. Additionally, his "T" breaks, while technically correct, come off at times uncontrolled and unbalanced, which makes them slower.
His tackling technique is similarly mixed. He leads well with proper pad level to produce maximum strength with his lengthy frame. However, he is not yet a consistent wrap-up tackler, and this has led to some tackling gaffes.
Ultimately it is the clunky hip-turning on his breaks that could be the difference between a career as a successful pro corner or an unsuccessful one.
However, this player has a unique set of skills and characteristics that make me wonder if he could move to safety in the event that he is unsuccessful at corner.
He played a lot of bail technique in college, which got him used to seeing the field and reading the quarterback, reading the play. As a result, he often breaks on footballs that are not thrown into his coverage.
He is a physical player with the makings of a good tackler if he can clean up his technique a little. He has enough speed to be considered a safety with range. His experience in man coverage at the college level would prove valuable at the safety position in the NFL.