Jadar Johnson determined to learn from last year's safety mistakes


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Johnson isn't afraid to say what he needs to say
Johnson isn't afraid to say what he needs to say

CLEMSON – Jadar Johnson is a senior and speaks with the maturity of a much older player, measuring his words and thoughts in a soft-spoken manner. With that maturity comes wisdom, and Johnson is intent that the Tigers’ secondary won’t repeat last year’s mistakes.

The 6-0, 210-pound safety out of Orangeburg spent the last two seasons as a backup safety, and he had a front-row seat for the secondary mistakes that played a part in the late-season struggles of the Clemson defense. He’s seen the film. He saw it first-hand.

He’s determined it won’t happen again.

“Coach Swinney always tells us that a wise man learns from another man's mistakes,” Johnson said after Monday’s practice. “Just watching that film - me and Van (Smith) watch it a lot - we don't want to make those same mistakes. Anybody who wants to be great will look at the guys who were in front of them and try to not make the same mistakes the guys in front of them made.”

During his Clemson career, Johnson has registered 41 tackles, four interceptions and four pass breakups in 571 snaps over 39 games (two starts). During last season’s march to the national title game, Johnson started the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma and logged three tackles in 28 snaps.

Despite his experience, however, he still feels like a new starter and is working to improve his game in fall camp.

“The experience is good, but I do feel like a new starter because it's different going out there and playing the whole game,” he said. “Just getting a feel for the game from start to finish. A lot of times when I got in the game the train was already rolling. So it's just me going out there as a starter is different. It's not like I am scared or anything, but it will definitely be different.

“I think I have done well, but there is always room for improvement. There are always things to work on from a technique standpoint. Overall, with my knowledge, this is the best I've felt and this is my best camp since I've been here.”

Clemson’s defense is under the microscope – again – after losing both defensive ends, the starting middle linebacker, both safeties and top cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Following Saturday’s scrimmage in Death Valley, Swinney pointed out that the secondary has to get better before the Tigers take on Auburn in 18 days in the season opener.

Johnson, speaking like a mature leader, says his secondary will be ready.

“If you are going to get beat, get beat in practice and not in the game. The best thing about Saturday was that it was practice. We definitely have time to work on those things,” he said. “I feel like we still have time. The game isn't until September 3rd so we still have time to get things in order. I don't feel like we are too far off from where we need to be, it's just a couple of small things we need to work on. I feel like we are going against the best wide receivers in the country every day, so when we get to the game every day it will be easy.”

Johnson ended the interview by saying that if he had to trust one of the freshmen to take snaps this season, it would be Trayvon Mullen.

“I would definitely throw Trayvon in,” Johnson said. “I would trust him at corner on my side of the field any day Just because I know if he is stuck out there on that island I feel like I can trust him in 1-on-1 coverage.”

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