Johnson was slated as the top backup to both outside linebackers DJ Alexander and Michael Doctor last season. He began filling in for Alexander but after an injury to Michael Doctor in the Hawaii game he slid over to that side instead. Statistically it was a solid year for Johnson as he racked up 94 tackles with 49 solo tackles, which were both good for 2nd on the team behind Tyrequek Zimmerman. There were three games with double digit tackles, which came against Utah, USC, and Boise State. He only had 3.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack however, making few plays in the opposing backfield.
Linebacker is a top heavy bunch for Oregon State, where Alexander and Doctor are both top players in the conference. With those two players it was going to move Johnson to the middle, which he may be a little more suited for, as he does not have the athleticism that the pair of outside linebackers have. Alexander has been injured throughout camp though, and as a result Johnson has moved back outside.
If Alexander stays out of the lineup the Beavs will suffer on defense. Johnson appears to be an ideal middle linebacker, filling gaps, keeping control of the game, but not overpowering anybody. If he is shifted to the outside he will not be as effective. This is why Johnson is ranked so far down despite his number of tackles, he is a good piece for the Beavers, but he will not have the impact that other players around him can. The defense needs to stay healthy so that he has that opportunity and that will determine his true value to the squad.
His versatility is useful to Oregon State, but in the end he will not be able to deliver splash plays like the other hoped-for starters. Consistency is a strong point for him, but if the Beavs are going to move up the ladder he needs to be playing at middle linebacker. The Beavers need each player at their strongest position.