ATHENS — Georgia’s “Superman” linebacker doesn’t wear a cape, but he has been wearing a backpack with a 25-pound weight in it this offseason.
Outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson, who Coach Kirby Smart noted was making “Superman” plays in last year’s edition of spring football drills, has made it a point to train hard during the coronavirus sequestrations.
“It’s a crazy time out here right now, a lot of people passing away,” Johnson said in a video he released earlier this month.
“We can’t do anything but try to stay prepared out here for when all this blows over.”
— Jermaine Johnson II (@ii_jermaine) April 5, 2020
That was the message Smart said he sent to his team after the Bulldogs’ football plans were altered on March 12, the week before Georgia was scheduled to begin spring drills.
Smart told his players to focus on what they could control, aware some will fare better than others as self-starters.
“The toughest thing is these guys are so used to being led around and being kind of hosted by us and taken care of by us while they’re here, that now, they’re on their own,” Smart said earlier this spring. “We can’t require them to lift and workout, but we certainly encourage it.”
This is where Johnson’s background as a junior college player could give him an advantage over some of his Georgia teammates who haven’t had to endure the same challenges.
Johnson soldiered through two seasons at Independence Community College in Kansas, the site of Netflix series “Last Chance U.”
Johnson got himself into the junior college fix by not taking care of his grades in high school, but most importantly, he got himself out of it by studying hard in the class room and working hard on the football field.
If anyone knows how to handle adversity, it’s Johnson.
— Jermaine Johnson II (@ii_jermaine) April 22, 2020
Johnson was at his best in the biggest games for Georgia last season, delivering clutch defensive plays in the wins over Notre Dame and Auburn.
It was Johnson putting heat on Ian Book as the Irish quarterback scrambled frantically to buy time before lofting a fruitless last-ditch heave toward the end zone in Georgia’s 23-17 win over Notre Dame.
And then on the road against Auburn, Johnson put a crushing hit on Bo Nix in the second quarter, forcing the Tigers’ QB to fumble the ball away at the UGA 37 to keep a shutout intact.
Year 1️⃣ • Just The Beginning pic.twitter.com/2V3MA3SNUQ
— Jermaine Johnson II (@ii_jermaine) March 23, 2020
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Johnson does indeed appear on the verge of a breakout season with one season of SEC experience behind him.
Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning was the coach on staff who discovered him, and with Lanning working without the outside linebackers and dialing up the plays, it would seem Johnson is set.