Commentary

Georgia Tech DE Johnson a rare athlete; Clemson RB Davis shows toughness

Steve Muench's weekly film report examines tape of two top seniors: Georgia Tech DE Michael Johnson and Clemson RB James Davis.

Originally Published: December 2, 2008
By Steve Muench | Scouts Inc.
[+] EnlargeMichael Johnson
Dale Zanine/US PresswireA second-quarter pass breakup was just one display of Michael Johnson's impressive athleticism.
Georgia RG Chris Davis and ROT Josh Davis vs. Georgia Tech DE Michael Johnson
Johnson recorded seven tackles, including a sack, and broke up a pass in the Yellow Jackets' 45-42 win over the Bulldogs. The pass breakup came on a first-and-10 play in the second quarter with the ball at Georgia's 44-yard line. Johnson stunts inside at the snap and engages Chris Davis, delivering a violent punch that knocks Davis off-balance, and keeps working upfield. Georgia QB Matt Stafford tries to loft the ball over him, but the 6-foot-7 Johnson gets his hands up in time to deflect it. This play is very similar to a second-and-9 play in the second quarter from the Bulldogs' 32-yard line. Johnson shoots inside on this play as well, leaving his feet at least twice in an effort to deflect the pass. Stafford gets the ball over Johnson this time but throws it out of bounds and is called for intentional grounding.

Johnson's sack comes on third-and-4 in the third quarter with Georgia on the 50-yard line, and while it's not a play that will make the highlight reels, it could improve Johnson's value in the eyes of scouts. One of the biggest knocks on Johnson coming into the season was his tendency to get caught out of position, and this play is an example of how he has improved in that area. Johnson engages Josh Davis off the ball, extends his arms and keeps his eyes on the backfield. He sees Bulldogs RB Knowshon Moreno drift to the outside and follows him, shedding Davis' block along the way. Meanwhile, Stafford finds himself in a catch-22. He can't pick up the first down with his feet because Johnson has taken away the running lane, and he has to get rid of the ball because Johnson is closing quickly. Stafford runs out of bounds before he is able to flip the ball downfield and Johnson is credited with a sack. Finally, it's worth pointing out that Johnson lined up wide as a gunner on punt coverage. This role is generally reserved for skill players because it requires a great deal of speed and agility, so the fact that Johnson can play there is another testament to his rare natural athleticism.

Clemson RB James Davis vs. South Carolina's run defense
Davis carried the ball 24 times for 91 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' 31-14 win over the Gamecocks, and his second and third touchdown runs show he is a well-rounded runner. The second touchdown comes on first-and-10 in the second quarter. With the ball on the 20-yard line and Clemson in a one-back set, South Carolina DT Ladi Ajiboye and DE Cliff Matthews slant inside and shoot into the backfield. Davis starts right but the penetration forces him to cut back, and he shows good balance in doing so. He then accelerates quickly and steps out of LB Marvin Sapp's would-be tackle. At this point, WR Tyler Grisham is running down the field and to Davis' left, so Davis wisely breaks outside and puts Grisham between himself and the pursuit. He then beats SS Emmanuel Cook to the left corner of the end zone.

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Steve Muench played four years of Division I-AA football before joining Scouts Inc. in 2002. He has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc., but his current focus is on the NFL draft.