Nico Johnson: Video Highlights for Former Alabama LB
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As one of just two Alabama players to start on the Crimson Tide's past three national championship teams (2009, 2011 and 2012), linebacker Nico Johnson knows what it takes to win.
In Johnson's case, sometimes it means specializing in a role as a run-stuffing inside linebacker and being so good at it that most scouts downplay all of your other skills.
You won't likely hear Johnson's name called in any of the early rounds of this month's NFL draft, but whichever team does select him in the middle to late rounds will get perhaps the best run defender available.
Here are some memorable plays from Johnson's days at Alabama.
Interception vs. Vanderbilt, 2011
Johnson proves on this play he can play adequate pass defense
When Vanderbilt running back Jerron Seymour goes in motion on this play, Johnson initially does an excellent job of picking him up out of the backfield.
As the quarterback is rolling to his right, Johnson's positioning against the receiver forces Seymour to reverse direction in an attempt to get open.
When the quarterback makes the ill-advised pass back against the defense, Johnson finds himself in the right place at the right time to make the interception.
Filling Up the Middle vs. Tennessee, 2011
Johnson shows no fear in taking on ballcarriers between the tackles
On this play, Johnson does exactly what an NFL team is going to draft him to do: stop the run up the middle.
While this play isn't altogether glamorous, it is indicative of the hard-nosed type of player Johnson is.
Knowing there will be a lineman crashing down into the hole ahead of the runner, Johnson shows his adeptness at slipping the block as he quickly side-steps the block and proceeds to stop the back in his tracks.
Sealing the Edge vs. Tennessee, 2011
Johnson cuts off the corner
It's one thing as a middle linebacker to be able to make the plays between the tackles, but the best are able to play sideline to sideline.
On this play against the Vols, Johnson is able to cut the running back off before he gets to the edge.
Once again, Johnson's ability to read the play and shed the blocker allows him to cut the runner off. This time, he saved a touchdown.
Recognizing Play Action vs. LSU, 2012
Johnson recognizes play action
Some players at the collegiate level are so athletically gifted that their physical skills can make up for mistakes they make in identifying what the offense is getting ready to throw at them.
Johnson isn't one of those players. He has to rely upon his strong play-recognition skills to make up for some of the things he lacks, like elite speed for a linebacker.
On this play against LSU, Johnson's correct read on the play action allows him to take the right angle and chase down the running back from behind.
Pass Coverage Needs Work vs. LSU, 2012
Johnson is a mismatch waiting to happen against the pass
One of the big things scouts look for when assessing a defensive player's pass-coverage abilities is their ability to change directions with their hips.
In the case of Johnson, this play is an example of why those scouts see him as a two-down player.
As the running back races towards him, Johnson's pass-coverage skills get exploited, as his inability to change directions quickly results in a big play for the Tigers.