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Johnson thrust into OSU spotlight

Beaver to make first career start filling in for injured linebacker


CORVALLIS — Oregon State junior Jabral Johnson is majoring in sociology, with an emphasis in crime and justice.

“I’d like to do something with the FBI when I’m done with football,” Johnson says.

Since he was a youngster, Johnson has been a fan of “The First 48,” an A&E TV series offering an inside look at homicide and crime-scene investigations.

“That’s interesting to me,” Johnson says.

For now, though, Johnson will be attempting to create trouble for opposing defenses.

He’ll get his first career start in Oregon State’s Aug. 31 season opener against Eastern Washington at Reser Stadium, but not under preferred circumstances.

Junior D.J. Alexander will miss at least the first two games with a knee injury, opening the door for Johnson to move into his outside linebacker spot.

“It’s an unfortunate opportunity,” Johnson says, “but I’m going in there with the mind-set that I’m going to produce and make plays for the Beavers.”

When Alexander was hurt, “it was a sad moment,” the Lawton, Okla., native says. “But it was pretty much understood it was my time to step up.”

Johnson is a much different type of player than Alexander and the other starting outside ‘backer, Michael Doctor. The 6-1, 230-pound Johnson has considerably more size but not as much speed.

“They run 4.3s and 4.4s (in the 40),” Johnson says. “Unfortunately, I can’t do that. But as far as the mental game goes, I’m pretty smart. It allows me to get to the right position at the right time.”

Johnson played some special teams as a true freshman in 2011 and as a sophomore last season, but has very little game experience at linebacker. Those

within the OSU program who have watched him progress over the last year, though, have been impressed.

“He’s a really smart kid, a good kid who played his best football in the spring and carried it right into (training) camp,” OSU coach Mike Riley says. “I hate the circumstances, but I like that he is taking advantage of the time to get better and has done a good job.”

“He’ll do fine,” linebackers coach Trent Bray says. “He has grown a lot since last fall. I’m very excited about Jabral. He works hard and he takes coaching — he’s not sensitive about it. You can coach him hard. He demands a lot from himself. You can count on guys like that.

“He runs well. He’s not Michael or D.J., but he’s a tough kid. He’ll stick his nose in there. The biggest thing for J.J. is he has been consistent and has been in the right spots. Any time you do that, good things will happen.”

“The one thing I focus on is not making the same mistake twice,” Johnson says. “That could cost the team.”

Since the injury, Alexander has spent time helping prepare his teammate for the starting role.

“I’m not worried about Jabral at all,” Alexander says. “He’s doing a good job in practice. He’ll do fine.”

Locker mate Dylan Wynn, the starting D-end, offers an endorsement, too.

“He’s stepping into the role quite nicely,” Wynn says. “I have full confidence the transition will be almost seamless.”

Alexander’s absence thrusts true freshman Darrell Songy into the third outside linebacker spot, meaning the 6-1, 220-pound Austin, Texas, native could see action behind either Johnson or Doctor in the opener.

“Darrell is doing a lot of things well,” Bray says. “He is on all our personnel groups (including nickel and dime packages), so he has had a lot to learn. He has highs and lows like any young guy, but he does a lot of good things. We just need to get him to the level where he’s consistent in what he does.

“If we don’t redshirt him, we’re going to use him. He has the potential, and if he keeps growing, he could help us this year.”

Johnson says he can’t wait for Eastern Washington.

“I’m stoked,” he says. “It will be a great experience. Hopefully, I’ll make all the plays I picture in my head when I watch (video). I am envisioning great things.”

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