Tracking the Tide: Nico Johnson

Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at linebacker Nico Johnson.

No. 35 Nico Johnson

Inside linebacker

54 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles

Role in 2012: Johnson was the starting inside linebacker in the base defense, but struggled to stay on the field at times when offenses went three- and four-wide.

The good: The senior's biggest contribution on the field was in run defense, where very few ball-carriers were able to escape his grasp. But his greatest impact might have been in the locker room and on the practice field, where the veteran was the voice of leadership on a young, inexperienced defense. He positioned the defense and helped first-year starters such as Adrian Hubbard, Xzavier Dickson and Trey DePriest mature in camp and throughout the season.

The bad: There was only so much Johnson could do with his limitations. His lack of foot speed kept him off the field in most passing situations this season. When he did stay on, he was vulnerable to the pass to the tight end or the slot receiver.

Crystal ball: Johnson doesn't seem to be a first- or second-day NFL draft pick, but chances are he ends up in a camp somewhere. His size (6-foot-2, 245 pounds), adequate athleticism and intangibles will be attractive to general managers and scouts. He knows the game and has not had any off-the-field troubles since arriving in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Johnson will likely be replaced by either freshman Dillon Lee or Reggie Ragland. Other linebackers could emerge as the staff sorts out who will play inside or out.