September 7, 2007

Friday Insider: Carroll, Stafon talk things over

It's a new year for Stafon Johnson. Friday morning, Pete Carroll thought the sophomore tailback needed a reminder.

During team drills, Johnson reached for a pass with only his left hand. The ball bounced off him and hit the ground.

Carroll approached Johnson immediately and the two conversed during the next several plays. Carroll rarely lets a teaching opportunity pass, but such an extended, one-on-one session during practice is uncommon.

"He was making sure that I don't fall back now," said Johnson, who has climbed out from deep in the coaches' doghouse, where he spent his freshman year. In August, he emerged from a deep tailback pool and split carries with C.J. Gable in the season opener, carrying 12 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns against Idaho.

Carroll has said that Johnson seems like "a whole new guy" this year, with a much-improved attitude. Johnson said that he appreciated Carroll's extra attention on Friday.

"Just reminding me of certain things that did happen before. And we don't want that," Johnson said. "It wasn't nothing big, it was just seeing one play. He just didn't want it to relapse."

After practice, they sat down for a few minutes and spoke outside Heritage Hall, before heading into the cafeteria for breakfast.

On the play in question, Johnson said the ball took him by surprise, coming in harder than he had expected. He stuck out his left hand in an attempt to bat the ball up to his chest, he said, but he knew it looked bad when the ball thudded to the ground.

He admitted he should have tried to get two hands on the ball. He also said the issue will not come up again.

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