HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— Redshirt junior Sebastian Johansson essentially has taken one step to his left this spring, moving from left guard out to left tackle but that transition can be as difficult as moving 4,137 miles from Sweden to West Virginia.
And Johansson has made that switch just fine.
“For a kid like Johansson, you’re talking about kid who made the transition from Sweden to the United States and that’s a lot harder than the transition from left guard to left tackle,” said offensive line coach Alex Mirabal.
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Johansson came to the U.S. as an exchange to student during his junior year of high school and played center at Raceland (Ky.) High, where his athleticism and passion for football caught the eyes of the Thundering Herd coaching staff. He went back to Sweden for his senior season and played American football for a club team, eventually representing Sweden in the Team USA vs. The World Game.
Mirabal is not worried about moving Johansson out to arguably the most important position on the offensive line.
“His athleticism allows us to move him out there. He’s going to make sure he’s up to the task and so far I’ve no doubt he’s going to be that guy,” Mirabal said.
The physical difference between playing on the interior of the line and moving outside was never a worry for Johansson. Learning the position and reading keys, such as linebackers and safeties, has been Johansson’s focus through the first two weeks of spring drills.
“For just moving one step it is big a change,” admitted Johansson. “Just checking the ‘backers more and looking at the safeties rolling out to the hash, stuff I didn’t have to look at before. A lot more stuff goes through your head.”
The coaching staff has been pleased with Johansson’s transition. So much so, Mirabal said Johansson is not simply a stopgap this spring while younger players such as A.J. Addison develop or until junior college transfer Brandon Mitchell arrives on campus.
“Swede looks comfortable there at tackle and I felt going in he’s a better at tackle than guard,” said head coach Doc Holliday.
Johansson said it does not matter if he’s playing on the right side, left side, inside or outside. “You’re still playing ball you just have keep you eyes open a lot more.”