Georgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson will be a returning starter in a veteran secondary for the Jackets this spring. Last year, he was the team's second-leading tackler with 78, had three tackles for loss, one sack and three interceptions. He also had two fumble recoveries. I spoke with Johnson to get his take on the defense and the program heading into spring practices, which begin today. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What do you think is going to be the biggest strength for the defense this year?
Isaiah Johnson: I would say the team bond. This is our third year under coach [Al] Groh’s defense. We’re getting used to it, we’re getting used to each other’s abilities, what our strengths are, and just coming together as a unit and getting tight, making more plays.
How do you expect your role to change, if at all?
IJ: I feel my role will change in that I need to become more vocal as far as my leadership off the field, pushing my players so we can have a better bondage and build the fire up. Louis Young, so far, he’s the one doing it. He’s the one coming in, stepping up, taking on that role. I’m also along with him trying to build that fire so we can stay amped.
What do you feel like you guys were missing in the second half of the season last year?
IJ: Let me think about this a second. Focus. I would say focus. We lost our focus a little bit. In the first half we did good. In the second half we were just losing it. That’s one thing, like I was saying with Louis and how he’s keeping everybody amped. We didn’t have that. We didn’t have that one to keep everybody amped. Actually, Julian Burnett, he was the one getting everybody amped but we didn’t have any other ones to build that fire. We became more lax and we weren’t pushing ourselves.
Do you feel like the defense made the strides you wanted to last year?
IJ: I feel like we improved from the past season, but there’s always a need for improvement and I feel like we shouldn’t be satisfied with our performance from last year. We made plays, but there’s always the need for improvement. We just can’t be proud of ourselves for having a winning season. Coming into this season, we need to do better, so no, I’m not proud of last season’s performance.
Overall, what do you think the expectations should be for Georgia Tech as far as the Coastal Division race? What do you think you guys are capable of this year?
IJ: We’re capable of winning the division. I see us taking over the division and just coming back, strapping up our helmets and laying people out. We’re going to have a lot of headhunters this season. We’re just ready to play. Even after this past game against Utah, we weren’t ready to stop even though that was a bad outcome. We’re ready.