September 24, 2009 11:05:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
Dennis Johnson is out a dream.
The former Amory High School defensive lineman could have remained at Itawamba Community College to complete his two years of eligibility, but he saw the opportunity to be a part of the LSU football program.
With relatives in the Baton Rouge area, Johnson didn''t have to think twice about what he wanted to do.
Johnson''s decision to walk on at LSU hasn''t earned him a lot of playing time (he has played in one game this season and made one tackle), but he likes the progress he has made.
"I''ve gotten so much better each day since I''ve been here, and I''m just fighting to get better and better," said Johnson, a sophomore. "LSU has a great defensive line and has some great names, so I''ve just got to come to work every day.
"It''s like day and night since training camp how much better I''ve gotten. The future is pretty bright, and I see myself eventually getting out there a little bit more."
Coach Les Miles said Johnson could get more playing time Saturday (11:21 a.m., WCBI) when No. 7 LSU faces Mississippi State.
"He''s stepped to the front (in practice) and has made plays, so we want to reward his efforts," Miles said.
The Tigers (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) hope to remain in the upper half of the SEC Western Division.
With the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1) being a division opponent, Johnson knows the importance of the game.
"Anytime you play an opponent in the SEC West it makes us excited," Johnson said. "We see this as one of the better Mississippi State teams they''ve had in the past, so we''d better be geared up."
Johnson also is looking forward to playing a college game close to home.
Amory High coach Pat Byrd was fond of Johnson as a player and believes he''ll get his time in at LSU.
"He''s going to work at it and he''s a big enough kid (6-foot-1, 278 pounds)," Byrd said. "He''s at a place with great players at that position. It''s just going to take a while."
Johnson played nose guard for the Panthers and had more than 60 tackles, with 10 tackles for loss, and three sacks as a senior.
"He''s always had the physical tools," Byrd said. "By the time he was a senior, he found out the importance of playing hard every play."
Johnson believes the Tigers have built a solid, veteran defensive line. LSU has started seniors Al Woods and Charles Alexander at the tackle and can bring junior Drake Nevis off the bench. Senior Rahim Alem has started all three games at right end and junior Lazarius Levingston has one start at left end.
"It''s all about leadership up front," Johnson said. "They show up every day and they are going to work and prepare hard for the game. They are going to lead the defense every time."