No. 9: Tyler Johnson
When I asked Mike Gundy at Big 12 Media Days what his biggest question was heading into the season, he responded with who would play defensive end for the Cowboys.
It’s a position with talent but little experience, after losing departed seniors Nigel Nicholas, Ryan Robinson and Cooper Bassett (not to mention, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones the previous season).
That makes Tyler Johnson’s presence important on multiple levels as the position group’s expected senior leader.
Johnson, a 27-year-old former minor league baseball player, converted from linebacker to defensive end last season. So he brings the speed and athleticism to rush the passer and to drop back into coverage or make plays in space when needed.
Johnson, a former walk-on, closed his junior season strong with six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. This season, he’ll need to become a mainstay on the line as an expected starter, and help a large group of youngsters develop into contributors.