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One-on-One with the Pirates
, August 14, 2010

By Ron Cherubini

Q&A with Derrell Johnson

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

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Of all of the players on the East Carolina defense in the past two seasons, in terms of pressuring the quarterback and disrupting the backfield, Derrell Johnson stood out. A menacing 260-pounder who can fly and has a destroyer’s mindset, Johnson was moved to outside linebacker for one purpose and one purpose only: disrupt the quarterback. It is a role that Johnson already appears to have comfortably settled in with just the spring to grasp the change in jobs.

Defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell could barely contain his excitement about the thought of Johnson coming off the edge for the Pirates. Joy for the ECU defense is likely a larger dose of pain for opposing QBs. Johnson has been given license to wreak havoc and will be a welcomed aspect of a D that was more than solid but lacked some in the sack department and much more in the area of turnover creation. Johnson will have a big impact on changing those numbers in 2012.

When asked what player he would always want to know where he is, starting quarterback hopefuls Shane Carden and Rio Johnson both pointed out Johnson. He is a big, strong and aggressive quarterback killer, ready to make more noise than ever from the OLB position.

Derrell was kind enough to sit down for a chat with Bonesville to share his insights on the upcoming season.

Derrell Johnson in action
(ECU SID photo)

One-on-One with Derrell Johnson

Q: When you learned you would be moved to OLB, what was your initial reaction?

A: My initial reaction was, ‘Hey, whatever the team needs me to do, I am going to go and work at it and do it.' So when the coaches approached me on it, they asked the same question, you know, ‘How do I feel about it?’ And I told them the same thing. Once I started (getting reps at OLB), it was pretty exciting. You know, I had to work at understanding the coverage responsibilities, but from the outside position, I get to move around a lot more and definitely it is part of the job to disrupt the backfield. I like it because I can use my speed along with my strength at this position.

Q: (After) a great spring, are you getting excited about the role? Describe the role. Do you think you will be able to get more pressure on the QB this time around?

A: Definitely. Being able to move around and use my speed will allow me to get more opportunities (in the backfield). The guys up front (DEs) are good and that helps us (OLBs) to get into the backfield quicker.

Q: If you had to describe the defensive unit’s mantra, what would it be?

A: Run to the ball… run to the ball and give maximum effort no matter what you are doing… a drill, a play, getting water. Do everything to the maximum. Even if you are making a mistake, make it at 100% effort. We all are definitely swarming to the ball and we are a faster defense now with how Coach (Jeff) Connors has developed us. We are all loving the aggressiveness and pace out here.

Q: Do you find yourself wanting to mentor the DEs, guys like Lee Pegues, John Lattimore, Justin Dixon, etc.?

A: Those guys know what they are doing, but, yeah, every now and then I will work with them. A lot of times, when I am lining up just outside of one of them, we talk before the play. It helps because I know what they are supposed to be doing, so sometimes we (communicate) when I am on the side of them. I know what they are doing so we talk pre-snap and get things straight, but really, those guys don’t need me. They know what they are doing.

Q: What player on this team do you most respect and why?

A: It would be Justin Dixon. He works hard on the field and he is selfless. It would definitely be Justin.

Q: Why should fans believe that this defense can become an elite unit in C-USA and beyond?

A: This year the level of work we are putting in is intense… greater than we have. We believe we are a top defense, that we can perform at that level. We know we have the tools and that we have to take care of business and that is how we practice, how we do everything we do. We are playing fast, smart and are physical at the point of attack. We talk about working hard and having fun and if we do that, good things will follow.

Q: Do you think this defense can be the type that dictates the game? How important is it to this unit to be known as a great defense?

A: We believe that we can control game tempo, but so does our offense. We are prepared as a defense to step up and be the difference maker for this team. We want the challenge. We want to be a defensive football team.

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Ron Cherubini Archives

08/14/2012 02:02 AM


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