Editors Note: The article you are about to read will introduce you to Trumaine Johnson. It will also introduce you to a talented young Journalism Major, currently attending the University of Montana. Deven Pfister is a Rams fan - and fellow TSTer - who I badgered into writing a few articles for us. I hope you enjoy his article! - DouglasM
After looking at NFL corners and the completion percentage against them; a solid NFL corner’s numbers tend to hover around about 50%. According to Walterfootball.com, top corner back free-agents like Lardarius Webb and Brandon Carr had completion percentages against them of 54.6% and 49.4% respectively. It’s doubtful he will be able to bring that sort of production to the NFL, but it’s always a good sign to see your rookie corner is beating NFL statistics. Trumaine was always known at Montana for his huge hits and seeming to be all over the field on every play. He showed the agility to continually fly to the ball during games and often would deliver hits that resounded through the entire stadium. He also shows receiver like body control when tracking balls in the air, something that will surely help him at the next level when tracking down bigger NFL receivers on jump balls. He made interceptions look like receptions by a receiver. Watching him turn to track the ball and elevate his body to go up and get balls with his hands left many a Grizzly fans’ jaws ajar.
This ability to catch with such ease is very rare in cornerbacks, since their job is usually just to get in the way of the receiver. While he may not be a home-run threat in the return game, his ability to return kicks will be a helpful addition to the Rams’ special teams. Trumaine’s speed comes from his long stride, so to harness this advantage, he’ll need to get some early separation or speedier NFL special teamers will be able to bring him down quickly. He has a knack for finding holes when returning kicks. He’s no Patrick Peterson, but he made a name for himself at Montana by taking kicks back for huge gains and even a few touchdowns.
While Trumaine may not possess top notch speed (4.48 40 yard dash), he has the quickness to stay on receivers, and has the ability to recover if he makes a mistake in coverage. Rarely did he let a receiver sneak by him for a long play. Johnson’s most glaring weakness will always be the lack of talented competition he played against in college. The Big Sky conference has never been known for big receivers with top notch speed or great hands. This caused many corners to be drafted ahead of him in April due to the fact they played more "elite" talent. He also needs to work on his ability to shed blocks on the outside. While he is a decent tackler in open space and against the run, he has a rough time shedding bigger linemen and tight-ends once he is engaged. His ability to light up receivers with big hits can often be seen as less of a blessing and more of a curse. While this is a wonderful asset to have, it was often caused some of Johnson’s biggest mistakes. When a player searches for that big hit he often misses easy wrap up tackles. This was very much the case because for every highlight reel tackle Trumaine made, he would often miss two easy tackles. Understandably, he wanted to be seen by pro scouts and the best way is making highlight reel plays. Now at the NFL level, he has no one he needs to impress. Hopefully, Jeff Fisher and Chuck Cecil can get Johnson to realize that a highlight reel tackle isn’t as important as getting his receiver on the ground.
While the University of Montana didn’t have much talent besides Trumaine, their roster is rarely devoid of players with skill. Montana’s mike-backer, Caleb McSurdy, became a 7th round pick this year by the Dallas Cowboys, and is a player who has an excellent future in the NFL as a backup linebacker or special teams standout. When looking at recent Montana players drafted into the NFL like defensive-end Kroy Biermann (ATL, 5th round) and wide-receiver Marc Mariani (TN, 7th round), it’s easy to see that both players have made an impact. For the past four years in Atlanta, Biermann has been a rotational defensive-end in the Falcons system, but seems to come up with a sack or a QB pressure whenever he’s on the field. Mariani made an immediate splash in the NFL, taking a kick and a punt back for a touchdown; averaging 25.5 yards a return in just his rookie season. While Montana players may seem to fly under the radar for most fans, it may be the desire to prove themselves to be just as good as the D1-A athletes that keeps them on NFL rosters.