Kyle Johnson knows the recent history of Air Force senior linebackers against Navy.

In 2017, Jack Flor made 16 tackles. Last year, Brody Bagnall made 13 stops.

This year, it’s Johnson occupying that spot as a senior.

“Just the nature of the triple option defense and offense, the way they clash, it lends itself to the linebackers getting to make plays,” said Johnson. “So I can appreciate that.”

Of course Johnson understands his role and the history. This management major with a minor in Spanish holds a 3.94 GPA at the academy and is ranked 14th in his class for academics and 10th in order of merit, which includes military and athletic performance.

Johnson interned as an investigative analyst at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington D.C. this past summer, work that included combining open source research and analytical tools to provide data to the intelligence community about illicit networks in Latin America.

He is nominated for the Defender of the Year Award, a national honor sponsored by the Charlotte Touchdown Club that recognizes a player’s performance on the field while also accounting for leadership, character, classroom performance and service to the community.

That intelligence also has Johnson aware of the trap he can’t fall into at Navy, namely anticipating run to the point that it might make the defense susceptible to the pass.

“You do (get into a rhythm), but it’s also kind of dangerous,” Johnson said. “Navy can definitely throw it as well, so you can’t get lulled to sleep too much.”

This approach heeds the warning provided by Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry.

”Either respect it, or get the ball thrown,” Perry said of a Midshipmen offense that is looking to throw more this season. “That opens up the offense a lot more.”

In short, Johnson is ready to do what he’s done since arriving at the academy.

“Do what we do, play triple-option defense,” he said. “We’ve practiced it since Day 1 freshman year. We all have a lot of experience in it. Just got to execute it.”

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