IU junior Jamar Johnson enters NFL Draft

Indiana junior safety Jamar Johnson has declared for the NFL Draft.

He becomes the third Hoosier to announce an intent to go pro, though he is the first non-senior to do so. Receiver Whop Philyor and offensive lineman Harry Crider have both declared for the draft when NCAA rules would have permitted them to return for another season.

Johnson was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2020, finishing second on the Hoosiers with 43 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. He also tied with Jaylin Williams for the team lead with four interceptions.

As a sophomore, Johnson was a backup to Marcelino Ball at the hybrid “husky” position but received signifigant playing time. His playmaking skills intrigued IU’s coaching staff enough to put him back at a true safety position.

Johnson’s ball-hawking helped spur on a defense that led the nation with 17 interceptions in the regular season.

“When you go back and look at this season, one of the best things we’ve done is to be able to utilize our personnel and maximize our players,” former IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said in December. “I’ve certainly made plenty of mistakes in my career, and I’ll make others. But moving Jamar to that free safety position certainly wasn’t one of them. That’s one we hit big on.”

This is the first big hit IU’s defense has suffered this offseason, as seniors like Ball, defensive end Mike Ziemba, and defensive back Raheem Layne have all announced an intent to return for 2021. IU’s defense is mostly sophomores and juniors, including All-American linebacker Micah McFadden and cornerback Tiawan Mullen.

IU defensive tackle Jerome Johnson, a fifth-year senior and first-team All-Big Ten selection, was the lone announcement withstanding about the 2021 season as of Monday afternoon.

At safety, IU is slated to return junior safety Devon Matthews, as well as redshirt junior Juwan Burgess. One younger player who could be in line for more playing time is freshman Bryson Bonds, who earned praise from IU’s coaching staff in fall camp. He appeared in all eight games in 2020, mainly on special teams, collecting two tackles.

IU also has a more veteran option in Layne, who has played most of his career at corner but moved to safety in spring. He was inevitably sidelined for the 2020 season due to injury.

In a statement on social media, Johnson thanked IU’s coaching staff as well as the fan base.

“I have loved my time at IU, will always bleed cream and crimson,” Johnson wrote. “Thank you for the support and Go Hoosiers!”

6 comments

  1. This is bad news for IUFB but I wish the best for Johnson as he was one of my favorite defensive players. Whoever takes his position will have big shoes to fill as he was a ball hawker that made plays on the field. He had a knack of finding the ball and getting into his hands.

    It will b interesting to see who wins the job and see how they perform in 2021. Bonds didn’t look very good in the one play I remember going against a Michigan freshman while giving up a TD. He has a season under his belt now with a spring practice season to develop even more.

  2. I’m not surprised by his decision and I’m confident he’ll be drafted. It would have been nice to have him back for his Senior season, but if he’s gotten feedback that he’ll be drafted and has the opportunity to make a lot of money, he would have been foolish to pass that up and risk injury to come back for his senior season. Given that Johnson was a full-time starter for only one season, and that he had enormous success in that one (shortened) season, he’s smart to grab the opportunity while it exists.

    And all things considered, while this is not good news, assuming the new DC is a good fit, I think IU’s defense next season will be considerably more talented and deeper than it was this season. The 2021 FB season is shaping up to be something special.

  3. Elite programs thrive on early departures, as do established and emerging ones. Players going early is a sign that the talent level is increasing, and the most excited people (other than the player and his family) are the coaches. It’s a validation that the program is working, and it’s one of the best recruiting tools you can get.

  4. Po, it is easy to understand why he is taking this step and I hope he is getting good advise about where he will fall in the NFL draft. I hope he does well and gives IU more national experience for how they can get players into the NFL.

    IU’s defense next season should be even better than this year with the experience they gained and the players returning. The new DC, whoever it might be, will have a lot of talent to work with and I hope he makes the best of that talent.

    Coach Allen also has to make some changes on offense if IU is to continue improving even if it is just changing some schemes. IU can’t stand pat and get better to have any chance to finisher higher in the B1G.

    With the right choices and changes 2021 can be another special season.

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