Lyndell Johnson became a key piece of the Oklahoma State defense last season, using his lateral speed, athleticism and versatility as a backup outside linebacker to make a variety of plays all over the field.
This spring, he’ll try to translate those skills to a new position, as Cowboy coach Mike Gundy confirmed after Monday’s practice that Johnson has moved to safety.
“He’s doing well,” Gundy said in a post-practice report released by the school. “Again, it’s so early that it’s hard to tell. He’s rangy and he runs well. We need some more depth at that position and we already have a lot of depth at the linebacker spot. Hopefully, it’ll work out well for us.”
This is a move I had heard about a couple weeks ago but didn’t get a chance to ask Gundy or Glenn Spencer about at our one media availability so far this spring. But it makes sense for a couple reasons.
Depth is one, as Gundy mentioned. OSU’s entire two- or three-deep at safety (Daytawion Lowe, Shamiel Gary, Zack Craig, Deion Imade, Larry Stephens) is comprised of seniors. On the other hand, the Cowboys are still stockpiled with young talent at linebacker (rotation candidates Ryan Simmons, Kris Catlin, Demarcus Sherod, Seth Jacobs and Jeremiah Tshimanga are all underclassmen). So this switch benefits OSU this season and beyond, and if all goes well, Johnson will likely be a starter in 2014.
Additionally, Johnson’s body type — he’s tall and lean at 6-3 and 215 pounds — and style of play made some wonder why he wasn’t already playing safety. There will be some adjustments, playing deep coverage probably the biggest one, but this should be a successful transition.
Johnson was listed as a linebacker in the spring football media guide and was still with that position group on the team’s official roster as of Monday evening. Expect that to be updated soon.