Wide receiver Pat Patterson and safety Tig Barksdale are sitting out the spring, suspended for undisclosed indiscretions.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt says both Patterson and Barksdale are running out of chances.
For what it's worth, Patterson has been around practice, Barksdale has not.
The good news is Johnson, who was suspended for the back half of last season, has practiced every day.
"I am really proud of him," Nutt says. "He's done a really good job of working hard."
Nutt goes on to say he's counting on Johnson and tackle Bradley Sowell as he rebuilds his offensive line.
Last Friday's scrimmage wasn't a banner day for the offensive line, but Sowell has shown he can be productive at left tackle, rebounding from last year's very slow start to play well at the end of the season. Ultimately, the Rebels' 14 sacks allowed ranked third in the SEC.
The Rebels were not a very physical, run-blocking offensive line, and that's what a focused Johnson brings to the table.
If Nutt gets the production from his tackles - talented sophomore Bobby Massie on the left side opposite Sowell - Johnson can give him a head start in rebuilding the line where there will be three new starters on the interior.
Johnson, of Hammond, La., was named among the top overall prospects in Louisiana and among the top offensive linemen in the nation following his senior high school season in 2006.
After two years in the program, last year was to be his breakout season. It was limited to five games, so he's behind the experience curve as his junior season approaches.
And he's asked not only to take care of his own business but to help nurture two other new starters, center A.J. Hawkins, a sophomore, and Alex Washington, a junior, the way the depth chart reads right now.
The running game is never unimportant, especially to Nutt, but it will take on greater significance early next season while a new quarterback - whoever that is - becomes comfortable as a Division I starter. What a lift it would be for Nathan Stanley or Raymond Cotton - or perhaps junior college transfer Randall Mackey - if the quarterback was able to ride a successful ground game, to hand off to a yet-to-be named tailback and ultimately to involve a talented group of receivers in a scheme where play-action passing has a vital role.
It could work.
As spring practice rolls along at Ole Miss the daily workouts often find the defense with the upper hand, the offense with "a thousand miles to go," to quote Nutt.
There is not a single position group on the offensive side that did not lost a major producer from 2009's 9-4 team.
All program's face attrition, and there's talent on board for new playmakers to emerge.
So much of offense hinges, of course, upon the success of the line, and Johnson has the size, footwork and mean streak to make it happen in the middle.
His coach, in fact, is banking on him.
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.