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Ohio State’s J.K. Johnson Was Anxious But Ready For First Career Start Against Wisconsin

"I didn’t really have any expectations but to just fly around and do my job."
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Redshirt freshman cornerback Jakailin “J.K.” Johnson didn’t find out he was making his first career start until the day of Ohio State’s 52-21 win over Wisconsin. 

But after taking more reps in practice than any other player at his position from the start of fall camp due to injuries to fifth-year senior Cameron Brown and sophomores Denzel Burke and Jordan Hancock, he was prepared for the challenge.

“Getting those reps was key to building confidence to going in the game and not being worried or having any doubts in myself,” Johnson said during his media availability on Wednesday night. “I wasn’t nervous. I was just anxious to get on the field. 

“I didn’t really have any expectations but to just fly around and do my job ... I was ready.”

After playing just eight snaps during his true freshman season as he dealt with a shoulder injury, Johnson saw his first significant action in the 45-12 win over Arkansas State. He played 50 defensive snaps that afternoon while rotating with Brown and Burke, then followed that up with 33 defensive snaps in the 77-21 win over Toledo.

“That helped a lot because getting real game experience is different than getting it in practice, like getting the calls and being in that environment, how loud in can get,” Johnson said. “(The key) is not being fazed by the big things and just doing all the little things right.”

With Brown and Burke ruled out against the Badgers and Hancock still nursing a lower-body injury he suffered in preseason practice, Johnson and freshman Jyaire Brown were thrust into action. 

He finished the game with four tackles while helping limit Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz to 94 yards and one touchdown through the air.

“It just really built our confidence knowing that everybody believed in us to go out there,” Johnson said. “I knew the time was going to come at a certain point, but I didn’t know when. It was really just being patient and waiting for that opportunity to come.”

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