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September 14, 2015

Larry Johnson

Columbus, Ohio

Q. How did you keep Joey involved when he was on suspension, not able to play? How did you keep him fresh, interested, involved, ready to help the younger guys, and then make that transition to get him ready to play this weekend?
COACH JOHNSON: We really didn't change a lot. Kept him practicing, kept him involved through all the roles and of course in the meetings. He played defense. So we would rotate the ones and twos, and he would get reps doing that. As we got close to the game, we'd start to back him out a little bit to give the young guys some reps.

I think that was the biggest thing. He was involved, getting reps and getting ready, and when he was not getting reps, he was on the sideline getting conditioning.

Q. What was his attitude like?
COACH JOHNSON: Really great. He's obviously disappointed, but really great, good attitude, stayed focused and went to work. I think that's what you want to see.

Q. You guys are rotating a lot of guys up front, specifically at defensive tackle. Of the young guys, the backups, who's the one guy really pushing for more playing time?
COACH JOHNSON: I think Mike Hill is a guy you've got to continue to watch. He started to do really great things, big, strong, athletic guy inside. That's what we're looking for in a nose guard. Joel Hale is a guy is really -- he's going to get some reps. But I think Mike Hill is a guy that's starting to push ahead a little bit.

Q. He played as a true freshman and then redshirted last year. What's the difference with Mike this year?
COACH JOHNSON: He's lost some weight, first of all. He's gotten his weight down. And he's more flexible. The staff has done a great job of getting his hips loose. And then the things that we do drill-wise really helped him out. He sees where he can be now, and I think that's got him motivated.

Q. After the game, Joe said this year he didn't feel like he'd have to play 80 snaps. There's more rotation, more depth at the end position. Are you guys in that position now where you can -- do you feel more confident rotating guys and taking him off the field?
COACH JOHNSON: I really do. I think Joe is max probably 60 to 65 plays to play at his best. With Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard and Darius Slade, it gives us a chance to really rotate and keep those guys fresh with Tyquan Lewis. That's the way you've got to play the game. It gives Joey a chance to be fast all the time.

Q. You know the counts much better than me. How often was he in a position where he'd have to play every single snap?
COACH JOHNSON: A year ago, he probably played 72 plays, down from 90 the year before I got there. Some games he played 85, 90 plays, which is a lot of football. To play at maximum speed, I think that's tough to do.

Q. Obviously, this Ohio State offense is a high flying offense and puts up lots of points. Does that do anything for the defense that, I don't know, any kind of motivation? Is there a little competition at all on a team of like, hey, the offense is doing this. The defense wants to be just as that same level too.
COACH JOHNSON: I don't think it's how you look at it. I think it's a team concept. The offense has a great day, and sometimes the defense has a down day. We've just got to pick each other up. That's what it's all about. That's what you saw Saturday. We kept playing, and they kept saying, and next thing you know something good happens on offense, and the defense keeps playing. There's nothing competitive about the offense and defense. It's still one team.

Q. What did you like best about what the defense did? The shutouts aren't easy. What did you like best about what the defense did?
COACH JOHNSON: I thought we stayed focused throughout the course of the game. That's the biggest thing. We saw guys on the sideline engaged. When they hit the field, they were engaged. That's what you want a defensive unit to do. Then it's not just the front four, it's the whole group.

You saw the silver bullet guys look in their eyes, just keep playing. Just keep playing. As you saw, they kept playing. Good things happen when you do that.

Q. As you watch video, does Darron Lee always jump out? Tell me about the reaction to stuff you all see of him, the way he makes plays and stuff. How much of that is him freelancing, and how much of that is him just executing?
COACH JOHNSON: He's not freelancing. He's in the defensive scheme. I think he's a very twitchy young man. I think he's got some really athletic skills. The thing that he did voluntarily was learn how to pass rush. He came down and spent time with Vince, our grad assistant, and myself to work on his pass rush skills. Those are things that are starting so show up. He can play much faster with his hands, and that's a gift to be able to do that.

Q. What sets him apart in a pass rush situation? It seems like he has a great first step or gets there quickly. In your mind, what sets him apart?
COACH JOHNSON: Speed. Speed and ability to flip your hips, and he can do both. When you have that much speed going on the edge and flip you up at the same time, that's pretty dynamic.

Q. And as you watch Joey, where do you -- where can he take his game this year that he hasn't before? Where did he clearly go this season wanting to improve on from your vantage point?
COACH JOHNSON: The hands have got to be important. Speed of the hands, speed of the hips, and that's the thing that Joey has really worked on. Since the championship game, you can see the difference just in his hips and his hands, just working and developing that.

He can fit the run very well, but just ability to use his hands as he rushed the passer really to get a chance to be really special.

Q. You've been around some great players in that regard. Do those guys carry themselves differently? Do you see a respect there, an aura about them? Is he in that level?
COACH JOHNSON: I think the thing with Joey is because he has such a great skill set, is that he can't have a moment where he can't play above himself. He's got to play at the high level all the time. That's tough to do sometimes. That expectation comes with a little stress. The biggest thing is keeping Joey relaxed and just playing within himself. That's the biggest thing we try to do.

Q. Coach, maybe this is more of a question for Coach Fickell, but you're going to be taking on quarterback Drew Harris this weekend. He's thrown for over 700 yards, six touchdowns, no picks. Given the defensive effort you guys put up on Saturday, is there anything you're going to approach differently about this game than maybe you did against Hawaii?
COACH JOHNSON: I'm glad you said that. That is a very special quarterback. Drew is very special. I have some videotape. He can run the ball also, but he's pretty accurate. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He runs the offense.

This is a really good offensive line, veteran offensively, good system. They want to run the ball. They're pretty balanced. We look at them, and they're really balanced at running the ball and can throw. This is a challenge for us. We're working overtime to get ready for these guys because they're probably the best offensive line we've seen in the first two games.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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