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DJ Johnson Remains Prepared for Any Situation

The Oregon junior has proven he'll do whatever it takes to help the team, even if it means switching between sides of the ball.

There were many players that stood out from the Ducks' huge upset last weekend, but one player that went above and beyond his role on the team was DJ Johnson.  Johnson did everything that he could to influence the game, including playing snaps on both sides of the ball.

Before transferring to Oregon, Johnson played exclusively as a defensive end at Miami in 2017. He recorded three tackles as a freshman, before making the decision to transfer to Oregon.

After sitting a year, he picked up where he left off by continuing to play defensive end for Oregon. He recorded a total of 14 tackles in 2019 and had a good showing in the Pac-12 championship game, picking up a sack and ending the night with five total tackles against USC.

In 2020, Johnson proved how useful he was when he made the transition to tight end. He hauled in three touchdowns, with one coming in the conference championship.

This season, the Ducks entered Columbus without some of their best defensive players. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Justin Flowe and Dru Mathis were all unavailable due to injury. Johnson was one of the players who stepped up to fill the void created by Thibodeaux's absence, but he also delivered on offense.

“Really it was just whatever the team needed,” Johnson said when asked what he thought about playing such a crucial role on both sides. “It was a good game.”

And he really was whatever the team needed.

Johnson recorded a sack on the defensive end–which served as the exclamation mark on a Duck win. When Oregon needed someone to fill in, Johnson did whatever he could.

“Whenever you practice at anything you gotta be ready to get in,” he told reporters. 

On offense he was a part of an offensive line that allowed just a single tackle-for-loss against a veteran defensive front. He improved greatly from Oregon’s tight game against Fresno State, thudding defenders out of the way to open lanes for CJ Verdell and Travis Dye

With just 2:37 left in the game on third down, Anthony Brown found Johnson open for a seven-yard gain to move the sticks.

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Although he was critical of himself for not staying in bounds, the first down conversion allowed the offense to run more than two minutes off the game clock as Ohio State lost crucial time for a final try on offense. 

By the time the Buckeyes got the ball back, they had just 20 seconds to work with and the pressure created by Johnson and the Oregon front seven ended the game, and consequently Ohio State's 26-game home win streak. 

Head Coach Mario Cristobal had nothing but positive things to say about Johnson’s work ethic and ability to be a two-way player.

“Tremendous impact. Completely unselfish player,” Cristobal said earlier this week when commenting on Johnson’s efforts in Columbus. “Being a two-way player is one of the most challenging things you can do as a football player.”

Very few can say that they had big moments on both sides of the ball in the same game, but Johnson can after helping his team upset the third-ranked Buckeyes. 

Johnson and the Ducks now turn their focus to a matchup with the Stony Brook Seawolves, slated for Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.

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