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Hyundai Sun Bowl Player Spotlight: Freshman Safety Jaquan Johnson

Jamal Carter's suspension may call for more playing time from an improving freshman. Jaquan Johnson is the safety of the future, and his number may be called as soon as Saturday, December 26 at the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Carter played a vital role in the defensive back rotation at safety this season, along with Deon Bush, Rayshawn Jenkins, Jaquan Johnson and Dallas Crawford. The 6-foot-1, 209 pound, junior became well-known for his devastating hits. Late in the season as injuries plagued Miami's linebackers, his ability to play among the front seven really benefited the defense. His speed, frame, and aggressiveness to tackle ball carriers helped the Canes defend against the run. Carter accounted for 48 tackles, a forced fumble, two passes broken up and one interception. Now, with his suspension from the bowl game, no safety has the physical capabilities to replicate his position against the run and play alongside Deon Bush. However, with a Washington State Cougar offense that can be lethal in the air, freshman Jaquan Johnson, a bruiser in the making, could be the force needed to best make up for Jamal Carter's absence.

Jaquan Johnson, a former 4-star recruit and four-time All-Dade First Team selection by the Miami Herald, enrolled at the University of Miami this past January. As an early enrollee, Johnson took advantage of Spring practices, and coaches raved about his progress. That momentum carried over into Fall camp, and then into the season. Johnson found himself starting on special teams and as the season wore on, seeing playing time on defense.

Jaquan Johnson appeared in all 12 games as a freshman. Johnson racked up 21 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. Johnson's lone interception came at a crucial time for the Hurricanes, with Miami ahead just 14-8 over the Virginia Cavaliers at Sun Life Stadium. Early in the third quarter, Cavaliers quarterback Matt Johns faced a long third down try. Johns attempted to thread his pass to a wide receiver with Miami's Tracy Howard draped over him in coverage. Howard swarmed the receiver and got a hand in the way, tipping the ball into the air. Jaquan Johnson made a break on the ball and dove, and his first interception as a Hurricane gave his team much needed breathing room against a conference adversary.

Johnson currently lacks the weight needed, as most freshmen do, to be the big-hitting safety he's destined to become. If you're familiar with his high school playing days, however, you know there's a hard hitter waiting within, and his aggressiveness shows, ideal weight or not.

Jaquan Johnson will play a crucial role at safety for the Miami Hurricanes in the coming years and has the potential to start as soon as next season. On Saturday, December 26 at the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, Johnson has the opportunity to showcase that potential.