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Sophomore safety Johnson quietly making impact

(Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)
(Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

Sandwiched between household names like Vontaze Burfict and Omar Bolden, ASU redshirt sophomore safety Keelan Johnson often gets lost in the shuffle.

Through four games so far in the 2010 season, Johnson ranks fourth among Sun Devils in tackles with 15.

On a defense that has focused on stopping elite running backs like Oregon’s LaMichael James and Wisconsin’s John Clay, it has been up to Johnson to cover more of the field.

A valley product, the defensive back was rated as the No. 9 running back in the state by his senior year at Mesa High School.

Johnson recently sat down with The State Press to discuss the upcoming road trip, familiar faces, and the transition from offense to defense.

State Press: The team is about to play three straight road games starting with Oregon State on Saturday, how tough is that to not have a home game in over a month?

Keelan Johnson: It’s really not that hard if you think about it, as long as we go in there and do our assignments. Follow some of the things we did in the Oregon game minus a couple mistakes and we’ll be good.

SP: You went to high school with OSU sophomore offensive lineman Geoff Garner at Mesa, what do you remember about him?

KJ: I talk to him every time we play each other. He’s a hard worker and he was always a leader when I played with him.

SP: How difficult have these last two losses to top ranked teams in Oregon and Wisconsin been for you?

KJ: It’s really hard because we were in the game and defensively we made a couple mistakes. I actually made two big mistakes thatI should not have made.

SP: How close do you think this team is to competing for a Pac-10 championship?

KJ: I feel like we are real close. Offensively, we are really starting to move the ball and everyone’s buying into it. Defensively, we are seeing what teams do best and taking it away.

SP: Coming out of high school you also played running back, how hard of an adjustment was it to focus solely on defense?

KJ: It was harder mentally than physically. On offense you really don’t have to come with a mental game as much as a defensive player, you can run a route and nobody knows if you mess up. But if you mess up on defense, the other team [will score].

SP: Do you miss playing offense at all?

KJ: I think everybody who played offense would. You miss all the glory that you get in high school when you’re in college and don’t touch the ball as much.

SP: About your Twitter account, @K_Johnson10, do you get a lot of fan response from that?

KJ: I just started it about a month or two ago, so I have about 90 followers, but I still get a lot of love from fans, other players and people I’ve known for a while.

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