Is It Offense or Defense for Johnson?

Darius Johnson

Darius Johnson earned first-team All-State honors as a running back, but was recruited by the IU staff to play linebacker. Has anything changed in that regard following Johnson's 1,500-yard senior season?

There's no disputing the fact that Darius Johnson's numbers are staggering.

The IU-bound football player recently wrapped up a senior season that included 1,505 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns for Highland Park (Mich.) H.S. He put up those numbers despite carrying the ball only 176 times, meaning he averaged 8.5 yards while leading his prep team to an 11-2 record and an appearance in the semifinals of the state playoffs.

But when Johnson arrives at IU, it will be on the defensive side where he's expected to contribute. A two-way player at Highland Park, Johnson was recruited as a linebacker, and that hasn't changed.

"They think I can make more of an impact for them at linebacker," said Johnson, who was a Detroit Free Press first-team All-State choice at running back. "So that's what I'm going to put my mind on. I'll stop being a running back. They like my athleticism on defense, and they like how I fly to the ball."

Johnson had an opportunity to sit down with IU Coach Terry Hoeppner and IU Linebackers Coach George Ricumstrict last weekend during his official visit and got a better idea of how they envision using him in an IU uniform. Indiana played a trio of freshman linebackers in 2006 in Josh Bailey, Will Patterson and Mandela Roberts, and Johnson has a feeling he'll follow a similar course once he arrives on the Bloomington campus.

"I'm pretty enthused about it – they said when I come in I'll probably play on special teams right away, and then I'll try to work my way to getting a starting job," Johnson said.

Johnson is also excited about the direction the IU program is headed. Indiana came up just short of earning its first bowl invitation in 13 years last fall, and with the majority of the team returning next fall, Johnson thinks his first season in town will be capped with a postseason appearance.

"(Hoeppner) is excited about next year, and so am I," Johnson said. "I think it's the year we're going to get to a bowl game. We had a good one-on-one talk at his house during my visit, and he talked about next season and how he has high hopes. I told him I won't let him down."

There also doesn't appear to be any thought in Johnson's mind about re-considering his IU commitment. The Hoosiers lost one of their verbal commits, safety Sidney Glover, last week when he took an official visit to West Virginia and then wound up committing to Coach Rich Rodriguez's program. But Johnson said there's no thought about considering any other options that might have arisen.

"I committed early because I knew I wouldn't have to go through the drama of recruiting," Johnson said. "I knew I committed to one school, and that was it. Most schools pretty much backed off, but I had a few from here and there talk to me. But this is it for me – I'm not taking any more visits."

With thoughts of playing as a true freshman, the 5-11, 220-pound Johnson taked with Ricumstrict about the things he'll need to do to be ready by the time he arrives in Bloomington in the summer. One thing he was glad to hear was that the IU staff doesn't necessarily think he needs to put much weight on his frame before he gets to town.

"He told me to just come in at a weight that I feel comfortable at – don't stress out about trying to put on too much weight," Johnson said.

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