Alabama Football: What You Need to Know About Crimson Tide LB Nico Johnson

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIJuly 22, 2012

Nico Johnson practicing for Mettenberger.
Nico Johnson practicing for Mettenberger.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Nico Johnson will be the next leader of the Crimson Tide linebackers. He's the lone upperclassman in the predominantly-freshman corps (h/t

Johnson stands at 6'3" and weighs in at 245 pounds (h/t He's a beast that will be stuffing the run and blasting receivers on screen passes and crossing routes all year. These things we all know, but what about his credentials?

Back in 2009, he earned playing time in 12 of the 14 games en route to the Tide's 14th national championship. In 2010, he earned playing time in all 13 games, with six starts. In 2011, Johnson again earned playing time in all contests.

Johnson earned Alabama's Defensive Player of the Week honors in three consecutive games against the following opponents in 2011: Mississippi, Tennessee and LSU (Round 1). He amassed 43 tackles last year, including 23 solo and 5.5 for loss on the year.

Having earned the Defensive Player of the Week honors three times in a row is impressive enough, but he did it with the three first-round draft picks from Alabama's 2011 defense on the field around him. That fact alone should give the Tide a lot of hope entering the 2012 gauntlet.

Fans and teammates aren't the only people placing high expectations on the linebacker from Tuscaloosa. He is on the following preseason watch lists: Lombardi Award, Butkus Award, Bronco Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award.

He has been selected preseason All-SEC by both the coaches and the media. He is currently ranked as the nation's fifth-best linebacker according to

The expectations are sky-high for Johnson, as is the attention that will be paid to his play throughout the season. All the pieces are in place for him to establish himself as a top-five pick in the 2013 NFL draft. That's the benefit of attention.

All he needs to do now is fulfill his potential. If he can lead the linebackers to the top of the defensive charts like those before him, he could be passing the torch after one season at the helm of the defense. If he keeps his focus and his work ethic, one year will be more than enough.