For­mer high school team­mates team up on Horned Frog’s de­fense

Star-Telegram - - Sports - BY DREW DAV­I­SON ddavi­son@star-tele­gram.com

TCU line­backer Jawuan John­son re­turned to his high school days last week­end against Kansas State. Or at least it felt like it.

John­son found him­self mak­ing tack­les all over the field along with TCU cor­ner­back Jeff Glad­ney. The old New Bos­ton High team­mates each reg­is­tered 10 tack­les on the day, ty­ing for the team lead.

TCU is known for its speed on de­fense, just like those New Bos­ton teams with John­son (who played safety in high school) and Glad­ney roam­ing the se­condary.

“We had a lot of speed,” John­son said of his high school team. “We even had guys that I feel like could’ve went and played Divi­sion I also. They didn’t just be­cause of op­por­tu­ni­ties I guess, but we had a pretty fast de­fense.”

The same can be said for TCU’s de­fense and it must show up against No. 7 West Vir­ginia on Satur­day. John­son, Glad­ney and the rest of the de­fense has to use its com­bined speed ef­fec­tively to slow down a high-pow­ered West Vir­ginia at­tack be­hind Heis­man hope­ful Will Grier.

The Moun­taineers boast the sec­ond-ranked pass­ing of­fense in the Big 12, av­er­ag­ing 333.1 yards a game, and have mul­ti­ple play­mak­ers out­side start­ing with quar­ter­back­turned-re­ceiver David Sills.

“It’s a pretty good pass­ing game, like to go on the fly,” John­son said. “Just got to be ready to talk, com­mu­ni­cat­ing. That’s the best way for us win­ning this game is com­mu­ni­cat­ing and talk­ing it out.”

For John­son, it helps to have a fa­mil­iar face in Glad­ney, who has been in Gary Pat­ter­son’s sys­tem for the past three years. Glad­ney is one of the first peo­ple who pitched John­son on TCU when he de­cided to trans­fer.

“He called my line ASAP, ‘Hey, come here and stuff like that,’” John­son said. “It’s fun play­ing back with him again. That’s my lit­tle brother. Love each other.”

John­son joined TCU as a grad­u­ate trans­fer last spring from North­ern Illi­nois. John­son had a solid ca­reer at North­ern Illi­nois, earn­ing thirdteam All-MAC honors last sea­son with 98 tack­les, in­clud­ing 18 for loss and four sacks.

It has taken time for John­son to tran­si­tion to a Power Five school with a de­fense as com­pli­cated as what Pat­ter­son runs.

“The play­book is more in-depth and de­tailed where you have to know your sim­plest de­tails or it could get you beat,” said John­son, who has started the past three weeks.

John­son has set­tled in and ranks fifth on the team in tack­les with 38. He’s had 10 tack­les in

each of the last two games against Kansas and Kansas State.

That’s the type of pro­duc­tion John­son had dur­ing his high school ca­reer. John­son’s last two sea­sons at New Bos­ton saw him reg­is­ter 171 tack­les, 10 forced fum­bles and eight in­ter­cep­tions.

John­son played of­fense in high school, too. He and Glad­ney were twoway play­ers as de­fen­sive backs and re­ceivers.

“If [Glad­ney] didn’t get the ball at re­ceiver, I was get­ting it,” John­son said. “If I didn’t get it, he was get­ting it. It just went back and forth.”

Ex­cept on run­ning plays. John­son and Glad­ney would usu­ally come out on run plays un­til de­fenses started game­plan­ning for a run when each came out.

“Teams knew it wasn’t a pass, it’s a run,” John­son said, chuck­ling. “So coach made one of us stay in even on a run play. We’d be tired go­ing both ways.”

John­son is now fo­cused solely on TCU foot­ball and hope­fully a pro­fes­sional ca­reer af­ter it.

He is try­ing to reach a bowl game in his fi­nal year of col­lege el­i­gi­bil­ity. It’s an up­hill bat­tle for a team that sits 4-5, but play­ers such as he and Glad­ney are try­ing to make it a re­al­ity.

“We’re try­ing to win them all, but we’ve got to at least win two of these games,” John­son said. “We’re go­ing to take it one game at a time, one day at a time.

“That’s the mind­set – just get a ‘W’ any way we can.”

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