Snaxx brings salty attitude
Toughness, both mental and physical, and confidence are must-haves for football players at all positions to reach peak performance.
Beyond quarterback, offensive linemen across the board must possess those traits to make an operation run smoothly. In today’s college football, defensive linemen are bigger, stronger and faster, and more havoc-wreaking than ever, it seems.
Individual losses with matchups in the trenches are inevitable throughout the course of a game, but enough wins over 60 minutes equate to a job well done and likely a desirable team outcome.
The same can be said for defensive backs, particularly cover corners. And the best of them are tough, have a short-term memory and own a visible confidence.
Based on Arkansas’ 15 spring football practices, which included a few live scrimmages, Baylor transfer cornerback Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson fits the bill. He figures to play a large role in the Razorbacks’ defensive backfield in 2023.
A standout at Lancaster High School in Texas before initially joining the Bears, Johnson was one of the more talked-about newcomers during spring drills. Johnson himself, though, is not much of a talker – not in interview settings, anyway.
“I’m a football player,” Johnson said April 8 when asked about working both at cornerback and nickel back. “I don’t really have a position.”
On the field is a different story, teammates
say. Asked about Johnson prior to the final spring scrimmage, transfer wide receivers Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa made reference to how vocal the transfer defensive back is before, during and after their one-onone matchups.
Johnson and Armstrong squared off long before joining forces at Arkansas. At 7-on-7 tournaments in high school – Armstrong at Bishop Dunne in Dallas and Johnson at Lancaster – the defensive back aided the receiver’s development and made him dig deeper into perimeter play.
“Back then, I wasn’t the receiver I am now, so he was really just sitting on everything,” Armstrong said. “I was like, ‘Bro, what am I supposed to do?’
“We battle every day I go against him (now). We talk about it after practice, things he can do better, things I can do better just to make each other better.”
In addition to talking to receivers he is covering, Johnson is physical, said TeSlaa, who arrived at Arkansas from Division-II Hillsdale College in Michigan.
“He loves to talk,” TeSlaa added. “He’s going to dap you up and let you know if you ran a good route. He’s going to let you know. If you’re being physical, he’s going to let you know.”
Few players on a football field know physicality like a linebacker. Chris “Pooh” Paul, a rising star at his position in the Southeastern Conference, is a big fan of that aspect of Johnson’s game. It is what stood out to him above all else this spring.
In a lengthy, insightful spiel about the Baylor transfer following the team’s final spring scrimmage, Paul labeled Johnson “a gem.”
“I would say a guy that really just came in and really caught the attention would have to be Snaxx,” Paul added. “He has really come in and impressed me. … I just love a DB that is physical – a DB that can cover you, you would expect that from a DB. But having a DB that can cover as well as come downhill and set edges and things like that and make plays (is big).
“That is what Snaxx showed me. He showed me he can have the energy. He has that dog in him, for real. Snaxx has been that guy that just really caught my eye. I’m so ready to play Saturdays with him, it ain’t even funny.”
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman loves what he saw from Johnson in the spring and believes him to be invaluable.
“He’s physical,” Pittman said. “I didn’t know he was this physical. Obviously I watched his tape and all that, but I didn’t know he was as physical as what he is. He’s a great kid. Great kid. I love him.”
Pittman, first-year defensive coordinator Travis Williams and those who staff the defensive backfield saw Johnson as a fit when he was in the NCAA transfer portal. And they expect him to play a healthy amount of snaps against another challenging schedule.
Johnson confidently stated this spring that he is the missing piece in Arkansas’ secondary. In 2022, he posted a coverage mark of 76.2 in 359 such snaps, per Pro Football Focus, and had coverage-grade highs against pass-happy offenses Oklahoma State (85.5) and Oklahoma (80.2).
“I feel like it was a good group. It just needed that extra help,” Johnson said. “The tape speaks for itself. I bring energy. I don’t know if I’m just trash talking. I don’t know. Whatever gets (receivers) off their game. Whatever gives the defense an advantage, I will (do it).”
The Razorbacks hit the jackpot last offseason with the addition of Dwight “Nudie” McGlothern, another confident, outspoken defensive back with flair and edge. If Johnson has a similar impact as the LSU transfer, Williams could have a successful first season in charge of Arkansas’ defense.
Johnson’s presence and ability now looms larger following budding star cornerback Quincey McAdoo’s car accident in early May. His availability for 2023 is unclear at this point, but his well-being comes first.
The Razorbacks will get a shot in the arm in the secondary when Baylor transfer Al Walcott returns from a spring-time injury that greatly limited his time on the field and Georgia transfer Jaheim Singletary joins the roster.