“It has been a good experence,” said Johnson of playing across from Moses. "When he hustles and is motivated, and we compete against one another to try to make each other better."
The pair had a sack competition last season, and Johnson had a difficult time keeping up with Moses – but most everyone in the SEC did. Moses had the second-most sacks in the conference and lead the Bulldogs with 11.5 sacks last season; Johnson had five. But Moses had the benefit of starting last season, Johnson did not.
That’s not to say Johnson didn’t have a big season last year – he did, but he was not in the spotlight that Moses was. Johnson made big plays against Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas.
“Everybody’s talking about how good a prospect I am, and what type of season I should have,” said Moses. “But whenever anybody asks me about Charles Johnson, I say: ‘He’s the best defensive end on the football team.’”
Now lining up as a starter himself, Johnson is turning his attention to the torture he can inflict on opposing quarterbacks.
“I am trying to focus on my fundementals, and keep my weight down,” Johnson said.
Johnson was a high-end recruit from Hawkinsville, a small school in South Georgia. He said making the jump from Class A football to the SEC was not easy.
Johnson started getting playing time behind David Pollack and Will Thompson in 2004. Last year he got heavy rotation with Thompson all season. That’s when it was noticeable Johnson’s play had picked up, as did his production.
“At a point in their careers, players have to take account for what they will turn out to be,” defensive ends coach Jon Fabris said. “Part of it is maturity, but the light comes on at different times for different people. That’s what happened with Charles last season.”
Fabris was not the only one that noticed Johnson’s improvement – Georgia’s head coach did, too.
“I think if you are talking about our strengths, then you have to start with our defensive end position with Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson on each side. Quentin has certainly proved he's one of the better players in the league and in the country. I think Charles Johnson is rapidly proving that he can be named in that kind of a group,” said Mark Richt.
"I just started taking care of myself more last year," Johnson said. That care appears to be paying off.
Now, starting to fulfill all of the potential he had coming out of high school, Johnson thinks 2006 could be as big year for him as 2005 was for Moses.