Texas Tech Football: Safety Jah’Shawn Johnson a game-time decision

LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 7: Ryan Schadler
LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 7: Ryan Schadler /

Tuesday, Texas Tech football head coach Kliff Kingsbury said senior safety Jah’Shawn Johnson will be a game-time decision against Ole Miss.

The Texas Tech football team’s plan of relying on its defense to pick up the slack fo an inexperienced offense could already be in jeopardy.  That is because, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury, senior safety Jah’Shawn Johnson will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s matchup with Ole Miss in Houston.

Johnson has been a limited participant throughout August camp with a nagging shoulder injury.

"“He’s been working back in there more and more as he goes,” Kingsbury said Tuesday.. “So we’ll see how he feels toward the end of the week and go from there.”"

An argument can be made that no player is more important to the team than Johnson who is one of three Red Raider defenders to earn preseason all-Big 12 recognition.  In 67 career starts, Johnson has recorded 257 tackles, 5 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

And against an Ole Miss offense that features three dangerous wide receivers including sure-fire NFL draft pick A.J. Brown, Johnson could be more important than ever this week.  Last year, the top three Ole Miss receivers, (Brown, DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf) combined for 2,606 yards and  25 touchdowns and all three are back in 2018.

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What’s more troubling is the fact that Texas Tech’s pass defense struggled last year.  Tech finished the year ranked No. 123 in the nation against the pass allowing 282.2 yards per game with Johnson on the field so it is frightening to think about life without the Ennis, Texas product.

Should Johnson not be able to play, defensive coordinator David Gibbs does have some intriguing options.

Just one week ago, Texas Tech added safety John Bonney, a graduate transfer from Texas.  Bonney has considerable Big 12 experience appearing in 37 games with 15 starts, the majority of which came at safety.   But asking him to fill Johnson’s shoes so soon might be too much.

Another option could be senior safety Kisean Allen who had 18 tackles in 2017.  As a sophomore in 2016, Allen made nine starts and recorded 43 tackles.

A player who turned heads in spring football, Thomas Leggett, a sophomore from Florida, is another possible replacement for Johnson.  A big hitter who forced a fumble in the spring game, Leggett projects to be more of a strong safety where as Johnson is a free safety who has more responsibility in pass coverage.

Of course, Tech could also slide an experienced corner such as Justus Parker, Douglas Coleman or Desmon Smith back to safety as well.  While none of these options are ideal, there is more depth in the Red Raider defensive backfield this year than at any time in the Kliff Kingsbury era.

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Still, Texas Tech fans will feel much better if Jah’Shawn Johnson is able to play Saturday.  If he doesn’t, a much greater burden will be placed not only on David Gibbs’ defense but also on a Red Raider offense riddled with question marks.