Tampa Bay defensive end George Johnson played for Greg Schiano and is energized about having his Rutgers coach lead the Buccaneers. Find out what Johnson thinks of Schiano in this PewterReport.com article.
Perhaps the happiest member of the Buccaneers to see that Tampa Bay had hired Rutgers’ Greg Schiano to replace Raheem Morris and become the team’s ninth head coach in franchise history is unheralded reserve defensive end George Johnson.
The former Bucs practice squad star, along with guard Jeremy Zuttah, played for Schiano in college and Johnson is eager to be reunited with the defensive-minded head coach.
“I just saw the news on ESPN. It’s exciting,” Johnson said. “His passion for the game is pretty much unmatched. It’s similar to Raheem’s. Coach Schiano just brings the fire and passion about football that you won’t find in any other coach.
“I’m real excited for him and for myself. It was a good move for the organization and I’m proud of him for making the jump into the NFL. He’s ready for it. He’s been preparing for this day by building the Rutgers program.”
As a senior under Schiano, Johnson posted career highs in tackles (44), tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (6.5), and finished his career with 12.5 sacks for the Scarlet Knights. NFL scouts say Johnson’s stats line was somewhat diminished because he was often asked to twist inside and also drop in coverage as Rutgers played both a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense at times. Johnson praised Schiano’s defensive mind and can’t wait to play for him again.
“The one good thing about him is that he switches up his defense so much that you can’t tell what he’s going to line up,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure what he’s going to bring to Tampa if he’s going to bring his base 4-3 system or if he’s going to change it up. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.”
Johnson and Zuttah are just a few of the players Schiano has produced that have made the successful leap to the NFL. Other notable NFL players from Schiano’s Rutgers program include Baltimore running back Ray Rice, New England cornerback Devon McCorty, Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt and Indianapolis linebacker Gary Brackett. Schiano has produced sixteen NFL Draft picks, including 13 in the last five drafts (2007-11), and there are 21 Rutgers players currently playing in the NFL.
“He’s made my transition to the NFL easy,” said Johnson, who was an undrafted free agent. “Everything from going to practice and going to meetings was the same at Rutgers as it was in the NFL. Coming into the NFL has been easier for me because I have already grasped the concepts back at Rutgers.”
When asked to describe Schiano, Johnson said that he is a detail-oriented head coach who stresses doing all of the little things correctly.
“He’s very detailed with everything he does,” Johnson said. “Handing the ball to the official is just one thing that he prides himself on. If you get in the end zone and score, give the ball to the official and act like you’ve been there before. That’s one thing that he does. He’s so detail-oriented.
“You can definitely tell that he does the right things with his players. He puts his players in position to make them successful. I’m sure once he comes to the Buccaneers, he’s going to pull the best out of his players.”
Schiano inherits the youngest roster in the NFL and one of the things that the Buccaneers were looking for in their next head coach is someone who can run a tighter ship than Morris. Tampa Bay was largely an undisciplined team in many eras from committing too many penalties to poor tackling to not enough maturity and professionalism when it came to preparation.
“The whole structure of his program is different from Raheem’s,” Johnson said. “Raheem wanted us to hold ourselves accountable and be accountable to each other. Coach Schiano may want us to have a different approach.”
“He can help us grow up a little bit faster. We need to do some maturing as a team and as individuals. He’s a very friendly person and he gets very into his players and makes sure you have everything you need to succeed. He wants us to understand the game of football and understand life as well.”
The Buccaneers are looking for the defensive-minded Schiano to help bring Tampa Bay’s defense back to respectability. In 2011 under Morris, the Bucs ranked 30th in the NFL total defense, allowing 394.4 yards per game, and ranked 32nd in rushing defense, allowing 156.1 yards per game. Tampa Bay also ranked dead last in scoring defense, surrendering 30.9 points per game.
As part of the Bucs defense, Johnson recorded a pair of tackles in his first NFL action last year as a rotational player at defensive end before tearing his medical collateral ligament in his left knee on special teams against Houston. The former Rutgers defensive standout signed with the Bucs in 2010 and was on the team’s practice squad, had a fantastic preseason, leading Tampa Bay in sacks with three.
As if he didn’t already have enough motivation to try to get healthy and help Adrian Clayborn, Michael Bennett and Da’Quan Bowers get to the quarterback in 2012, Johnson is energized about the idea of playing for Schiano again.
“My rehab went real well,” Johnson said. “It’s fine. My knee is back to normal. I’m ready to get back at it and try it out.
“It was an MCL tear, but I didn’t have surgery. They said I could let it heal naturally. We’ll see what happens when I go out to practice. I’m eager to test it out and play for Coach Schiano.”
Johnson said that he is in great shape after his rehab, and after not being able to attend OTAs (organized team activities) due to the NFL lockout last year, the second-year defensive end is anxious to get some coaching and develop from Schiano.
“I’m ready to go,” Johnson said. “I’m down to 265, which is my natural playing weight. I was up to 270 pounds last year when they wanted me to play inside. I wanted to have some extra weight on me to go up against those guards. The knee feels good and I’m ready to play again for Coach Schiano.
“He’s a very animated guy. You’ll see. He’s a fun guy to watch and a fun guy to play for.”
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