If his transition to becoming a UL defensive back goes as well as his academic career went at Texas-San Antonio, the Ragin’ Cajuns are going to be thrilled with graduate transfer Brenndan Johnson.
The Waco, Texas, native spent a year in a Naval Academy Prep School before heading to Texas-San Antonio — where he graduated in three years.
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No, it wasn’t a major goal for him.
It wasn’t something he planned for.
It just sort of happened.
“I had a really good support system,” Johnson said nonchalantly. “I made sure to pass like all of my classes. The summer classes really helped. Without even knowing, I graduated in three years. I was like, ‘Oh, whoa.'
“I was kind of just going along with the flow. I expected to be done in like three and a half, like most athletes, but the opportunity arose and I took advantage of it. And that’s how I ended up here.”
Coaches and athletic directors across the country wish it was that easy for athletes to graduate.
The 5-foot-10, 179-pound Johnson is a rare graduate transfer with two years of eligibility left for the Cajuns.
Johnson’s reason for coming to UL is easy to understand. New UL safeties coach Patrick Toney coached him with the Roadrunners.
It’s an easy scene to picture.
“I had a really good relationship with coach Toney here,” said Johnson, who now enters graduate school in sports management in the kinesiology department. “I was graduating and I entered my name in the portal. He hit me up and he told me about all the special things that were going on around here and it made me feel like it was something I wanted to be a part of, so I visited.
“Not only did the team make me feel at home, but the community, the coaches, everything played a huge part.”
He left Midway High in Waco as a cornerback, played safety for two years at UTSA and comes to Lafayette expecting to back up senior Terik Miller at nickel safety or the ‘star’ position.
As a freshman, Johnson played in 11 games, collecting 21 tackles, a stop behind the line and a pass breakup.
“Just in general, having the chance to get a veteran player who is intelligent, mature; he’s a really good competitor if you go back and watch his UTSA tape,” UL coach Billy Napier said. “We felt like he would give us a little bit of an experience factor there — a guy that had good coverage skills.
As a sophomore in 2018, Johnson started 11 games with 41 tackles, 4.5 stops behind the line, a sack, four pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
He’s 6-foot-5 with enough speed and he's entering his fourth year in the program.
“He’s really comfortable in coverage and a physical player who can make tackles,” Napier said. “And really, has done well for himself since he got here. He’s well-respected by his teammates, he’s a great practice player and I think he’s a guy that will help us as time goes.”
Thus far, Johnson has been impressed with his new colleagues in the secondary.
“There is a ton of competition,” Johnson said. “We push each other to get better each day. I think I’m going to have more of a role on passing downs, stuff like that, where we need some tight man coverage. That’s what I came here to do is play man.
“That’s the emphasis I’ve been working on in this camp.”
Moreover, Johnson is already convinced the individual elements in UL’s secondary match up perfectly.
“I think we have a lot of talent, along with the depth,” he said. “The guys do a lot of different things really well. We each have different strengths and weaknesses. I like the fact that we’re so diverse on the back end that we can mask each other’s weaknesses together.”
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Johnson said Toney instructed him to learn all three safety spots like he did in San Antonio, but the plan is for him to be covering a lot of slot receivers and an occasional tight end.
“The main difference is just being on the field and being on an island in man coverage a lot of times,” Johnson said. “It’s more of an emphasis at that position than maybe free safety or weak safety.”
While he obviously adapts pretty well to new surroundings, Johnson said he’s taking his leadership role slowly.
“A lot of guys hold me to a higher standard knowing that I played in some games and some haven’t,” he said. “It’s a leadership role that we should all take. We should all be communicating. I try not to be too vocal. I’m still feeling my way out, but I’m definitely trying to bring a lot of guys with me.”
UL football coach Billy Napier certainly expected it, but the Cajuns’ two graduate transfers — Texas-San Antonio defensive back Brenndan Johns…