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Better Know a Draft Prospect: Gardner-Webb Defensive End Brian Johnston

The least you should know about Brian Johnston...


274 lbs
40 Yard Dash


20 Yard Dash


Bench Reps


3 Cone


Compares To:

MATT ROTH-Miami: " Johnston is a work in progress, but he brings instant value as an edge rusher. His first lesson is that he cannot overpower NFL offensive tackles on a consistent basis. This might have worked at his level of competition, but not in the NFL, where tackles are much bigger and stronger. Johnston is a good leverage player who can hold his ground on the edge, but because of size issues, he is inconsistent in attempts to split double teams. With his ability to play on his feet and the flexibility he shows coming off the corner, he will get to the quarterback often, if not asked to play every down. "

Fun Fact Interview

From FFLiveWire

Who is your biggest role model? Why?? Both of my parents are my biggest role models because they constantly inspire me to be the best I can be..

What is your greatest football moment to date? Beating a highly ranked team in overtime my freshman year and being named defensive player of the week.

Is there a situation in your past where you overcame adversity? How did you do it and how has it made you a better person? I have been overcoming adversity my whole life because I grew up with nothing, been living paycheck to paycheck and have been working so hard for the chance to be able to help my family financially while doing something I love.p> What sports did you participate in during high school and how have they helped you to become a better player on the football field? threw the shot and discus in high school and that helped me a lot with my balance and strength.

Who is the best player you have faced during your career? Jerome Mathis (Hampton)

What current NFL player does your game most resemble? Patrick Kerney because he can beat you with speed or power.

Outside of football, what are some of your hobbies? Playing pool, bowling, fishing, playing video games, and hanging out with the family and friends.

Why should a NFL team select you over other defensive ends in this draft? Because I am just as good at the run as I am at the pass and my motor never stops. I don’t have a big school pushing my name out there; it’s just me and my god given abilities

Why should a NFL team select you over other defensive ends in this draft? Cowboys; No.

If you could sack any NFL quarterback, who would you choose? Why? Eli Manning because he didn’t want to come to San Diego.

Better Know a Draft Prospect: Gardner-Webb Defensive End Brian Johnston


I'll be the first to admit that we've been a bit obsessed with the defensive end position.  It's on everyones mind for all the right reasons.  Bobby McCray is now a Saint, Reggie Hayward is reading a bit too much Greek Mythology since his surgery, and we've got a whole cadre of situational pass rushers that haven't developed into much of anything.  Much of the focus, for obvious reasons, on our first round pick is on where the first round defensive ends fall in the draft.  I pose to you this question, do we want the 5th or 6th best first round defensive prospect over say the second or third best defensive tackle or offensive lineman?  If we assume that Chris Long, Vernon Ghoulston, and Derrick Harvey are off the board before the 15th pick, the next best defensive ends are Phillip Merling, Quentin Groves and Calais Campbell.  Between the 15th pick and the Jaguars you've got Minnesota who needs a defensive end and our good friends the Tennessee Titans who can pick just about anyone because they have needs just about everywhere.  If you want the Jaguars to get someone like Phillip Merling, you really have to hope one of the first round offensive tackles falls to the Vikings, otherwise I'd expect Merling to fall from the board at 17.  Calais Campbell should go to either Washington or the Titans, leaving us with one possible first round prospect in Quentin Groves.  

Groves, by the way, will be a far better 3-4 outside linebacker than he will defensive end.  Hardly the best idea for our first round pick unless the Jaguars feel as though he's a Dwight Freeney type (6-1/268 lbs v. 6-3/259).

What we have here is a mess of a situation for the Jaguars as far as First Round defensive ends go, but who's to say that there's not an answer out there in the later rounds?  

I'm talking about Gardner-Webb Defensive End Brian Johnston who's just starting to get hyped as one of the best small school prospects out there.  This is a guy who didn't even get a Scouting Combine invite, despite having the physical gifts to play full time left defensive end.  There's not many players in this draft who are classic ends, this guy fits the bill.  Of course, he's only proven it against small school competition, but that's fixable.  

Who is Brian Johnston?  A self-admited Chargers fan and Taurus born on May 2nd 1986 in San Diego California.  Johnston played against Reggie Bush in high school while playing for  Madison High School.  He's one of the few prospects I've researched that's never changed position from his high school days.  He also participated in track and field as a shot putter.  He won the Big South Defensive Player of the Year in 2006, and an Associated Press All-American in 2006 and 2007.  Notably, he was the only 'Bowl Subdivision" finalist for the Hendricks Award given to the best defensive lineman in the country.

Brian Johnston's style of play in one word: Disruptive.  Brian uses his quickness to surprise offensive linemen and get into the backfield before a play can develop.  He was third in the country in 2007 with 24 stops behind the line of scrimmage.  His quickness does hurt his technique as he's more inclined to use his raw physical talent rather than skills to burn linemen, this will need coaching as the bigger and stronger NFL linemen are a lot harder to beat than Big South talent.

Oh yeah, his college nickname was "the Mad Stork".

Video Killed the Scouting Report






Brian Johnston eats a Sack Lunch!






Brian Johnston, by the numbers:

Brian Johnston is 6'5 and 274 lbs, built into a frame that has plenty of room to grow.  While he was not invited to the Combine, his pro-day numbers are nothing short of spectacular.  His 6.66 40-yard dash would have been the 4th best of all defensive ends, and the best of any over 260 pounds.  The all important 10-yard split of 1.51 was the same as Darren McFadden's.  Of course you can't put too much merit in his timed speed, but as far as the things you can measure go, they're fantastic.  It's probably why his name is appearing on SI's Small School Sleepers list list.

Brian started in 40 of 42 games at Garder-Webb, recording 268 tackles, 74 in his senior year.  2007 also had 24 stops behind the line of scrimmage, three deflected passes, one forced fumble, and one passing touchdown.  Seriously.  21 sacks in his career for a net loss of 140 yards and 69 quarterback pressures.

Notable Quotables:

On his Hula Bowl (College All-Star game) performance:

"This feels great," Johnston said. "Everyone is telling me good things, and I played pretty well. Four or five tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and we won big. [The West] didn't run the ball much at all."

On his work to prepare for the NFL Draft

"We've worked hard since January," Johnston added. "It's really nice to see some results come out of this workout [Saturday]. I'm excited about playing football at the next level and proving that a guy from a small school like Gardner-Webb can make an impact."

Scouting Reports:


  • Scott Wright's NFL Countdown: Good size and bulk with the frame to get bigger...A much better athlete than he is given credit for....Good timed speed and is very quick....Relentless with a non-stop motor...A good bull rusher...Uses his hands well...Shows some power...Productive.
  • NFL Draft Scout:  Has a frame that can carry additional bulk, good arm length and large hands to grab and drag down ballcarriers...Shows very good hand usage, keeping the active in his pass rush, executing good crossover action to get an edge on a slower offensive tackle...Shows good body control, hip flexibility and balance turning the corner to give chase in the backfield...Gets a decent hand jolt with his punch to slow down backs and tight ends...Plays with pain and does not shut down until the whistle...Has the ability to collide and generate good pop on contact when he plays at a good pad level...Plays better on the move, but has the adequate power base to hold his ground and can be disruptive with his hands when he keeps them inside the framework...Seems more comfortable when asked to stunt, rather than anchor and read...Has the lateral agility to work down the line...Has enough leverage to sit in the gap and hold his ground (inconsistent vs. double teams), as he has the hand placement to get a quick release when he does not get engulfed by larger blockers...If he keeps his pads down in can be tough to handle in one-on-one blocking (will get washed on down blocks)...Not really extra strong at the point of attack, but plays with good knee-bend and leverage...Fights pressure vs. reach blocks...Has the functional hip flip to make plays off the edge..
  • NFL Draft Dog: With the advent of the 34 defense in the NFL, those jumbo defensive ends like Johnston have been much sought after. Johnston has fought almost constant double teams, which is why his 6 sacks don't look that impressive, but he has proven to be very solid against the run, despite being double teamed, his 74 tackles, 20.5 being for a loss, prove that he can fight through multiple blockers and get to the ball carrier. Very good at using his hands, strong and quick, Johnston plays the game with a non-stop motor. He will have to increase his repertoire of pass rushing moves and continue to train to get stronger and quicker in the NFL, but he has the raw talent and skills to warrant a 4th or 5th round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
  • Scouts Notebook: Brian plays both LDE and RDE. I think GW likes to make it tough for teams to double him by moving him around. He still did get a lot of double teams, though. The offense always knows where number 96 is. GW also played some 3-4. He remained at DE and almost always got a double when they went to this look. Brian is quick off the ball, but he's not explosive. He is fast. He's got a good motor and will chase plays. He plays with good leverage and consistently drives OL back toward the QB. This is not a finesse guy who tries to run around blocks. He plays under control. Brian also uses his hands well. That allows him to shed blocks as well as controlling the point of attack.


  • Scott Wright's NFL Countdown: Did not play against top competition...Is not as explosive as his workout numbers might lead you to believe..Not real stout at the point of attack...Repertoire of pass rush moves is limited....Needs to get stronger....Short arms...Raw technique-wise.
  • NFL Draft Scout: Has adequate muscle tone and a soft midsection and is a bit high-cut with long calves...Quick to penetrate, but is inconsistent in his redirection skills and will overrun the play and then struggle to recover...Has good quickness off the edge, but not enough to explode past defenders and needs to show more suddenness in his initial step...Just adequate in the classroom and, while he can recognize blocking schemes, at times, he needs more than several reps to retain plays...Will run into the blocker rather than try to slip and avoid, causing wear and tear on his body...Will be late off the ball at times, as he does not have a natural feel for snap cadence...Lacks the bulk to split double teams...Recognizes the trap and can stack, but his marginal size hurts him working in-line...Must flatten and squeeze better on down blocks...Better getting into the backfield when challenging a tight end than an offensive tackle, as he sometimes gets too wired to big-bodied blocks...Has good strength as a wrap-up tackler, but needs to roll his hips better to put more force behind those tackles...Better with his swim and counter moves, as he is still trying to perfect his club and rip moves on the bull rush.
  • Scouts Notebook: One concern with Johnston is why a guy with his athleticism wasn't more dominant at his level. He had 6 sacks as a Senior. Even getting doubled, shouldn't a player with his ability have gotten to the QB more? Remember Adam Carriker last year? He didn't have big numbers. The Nebraska scheme didn't let him just fly off the ball and attack upfield. I think some of that is the case with Brian. I see the kind of quickness and agility that should make him a very good pass rusher, but as I mentioned, he played under control. Brian did have 30 career QB hurries.

Why should he be on the Jacksonville Jaguars

He's a prototypical 4-3 defensive end in a draft with very few true 4-3 ends.  He's going to need development but he's got all the physical gifts to play in the NFL.  I'd rather take a raw prospect and build him than take a poorly fitted player and force him into our system.  Brian won't solve our pass-rush problems on opening day, but he will be the sort of guy who we can put in a little bit here and there to groom him for a larger role.  He's a 4th or 5th round guy that's got a whole lot of buzz out there.  Probably enough to get a team to reach on him in the late third.  I think he's got all the tools to be a very good defensive end and were we to spend a pick on the guy, I'd be pleased.  He's already shown that he handles adversity well by rising above his combine slight, so you know he's got the right mindset for the NFL game.  Remember how the last guy we drafted with a chip on his shoulder turned out?  Number 32.  Poor comparison, but I'll run with it.

Better Know a Draft Prospect: The Series: