Arizona's Kevin Sumlin: 335-pound PJ Johnson makes 'impact' at DE

PJ Johnson meets with the media last week.

JC transfer has a sack in each of past two games

Arizona Wildcats defensive lineman PJ Johnson, at 335 pounds, started at defensive end against USC on Saturday night.

He joined nose guard Dereck Boles (306 pounds) and defensive tackle Finton Connelly (301 pounds) along the front. So, at least you can no longer say that Arizona's defensive line is too small.

"We want to get our best people on the field. There's positives and negatives to that," coach Kevin Sumlin said after 24-20 loss.

"I thought he was very, very effective, but now you're in a rotation situation. When you're rotating him and Boles, you keep them fresher. But we made the decision, 'Hey, let's put our best guys on the field.' In the second half, those guys, I thought, made a difference because of their size and they didn't have to stay on the field as much because we got third-down stops."

That's true.

USC converted only 2 of 8 third-down conversions in the second half (and was only 3 of 8 in the first half, although all three came in the same drive, which ended in a touchdown).

Johnson's size was supposed to be an aid against USC's rushing attack, although the Trojans still managed 253 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries. The coaches also moved Johnson inside on passing downs as he shows a strong bull rush.

Johnson was active, finishing with four tackles, including 1.5 for loss and sack, as well as a fumble recovery. The junior college transfer, who started the season-opener at defensive tackle before missing two games with a foot injury, adds energy and emotion to the defense, which was more apparent in the second half than the first.

"I think he likes that position," Sumlin said of Johnson playing defensive end.

"It's a little less congested out there as it is in there, where there is people coming at you at every angle. At least you can get a pretty good feel for where people are coming from. ... He has, without a doubt, impacted our defense the past two weeks."

Johnson had two tackles for loss, including a sack, at Oregon State on Sept. 22.

Against USC, he replaced sophomore end JB Brown, who had stepped in for returning starter Justin Belknap, who suffered a broken foot in practice after the second game of the season.