Alabama Football: What H-Back Kelly Johnson's Federal Lawsuit Means for Tide

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IISeptember 25, 2012

Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end Kelly Johnson (31) tries to avoid a tackle by MIchigan Wolverines cornerback T J Ford (8) during the fourth quarter at Cowboys Stadium. Alabama beat Michigan 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

Alabama's starting H-back, Kelly Johnson, has been accused of a brutal off-campus assault that has resulted in a federal lawsuit and could cause more difficulty with depth on offense. confirmed the suit, but "innocent until proven guilty" does not always apply in situations regarding collegiate sports teams.

Allegedly, an underage and drunk Johnson beat an equally intoxicated individual, Logan Herring, to the point of unconsciousness. 

The results of the assault allegedly caused Herring to experience terrible mental problems including memory loss, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

This is a federal suit against Johnson and his fraternity Sigma Chi, and though there are no criminal charges, punitive damages are involved.

As the story goes, this event happened two years ago. Whatever the facts are behind this case, one question must be asked: How will Nick Saban respond to this?

Saban is known to be a brutal disciplinarian, and tight end Brent Calloway is the perfect, timely example. Saban threw the book at Calloway after a severe lapse in judgment.

Calloway was recruited to play linebacker with the slim possibility of a running back position, but Saban requires incredible discipline from his defense, and Calloway was moved to a position far less important than his middle linebackers.

What Saban does can go different ways, but it's going to depend on Kelly Johnson.

If Johnson didn't commit the act and sticks to his guns, then Saban might not do anything and let the off-the-field issues stay off-the-field issues, or he might bench Johnson based on simply the gravity of the accusations.

If Johnson is the guilty party and fesses up to Saban, then he is certain to receive some kind of punishment.

The situation could certainly cause Johnson to get pulled out of action as the starting H-back, but that leaves the team in one heck of a quandary.

Johnson earned the starting role on talent and effort, but he is a walk-on senior who was a linebacker for most of his career and switched to offense this past spring.

Either he was amazingly impressive or he was just the best option they had.

At 6'3" and 230 pounds, Johnson has the near-ideal size Saban fancies in his H-backs. His predecessors, Preston Dial and Brad Smelley, were 6'3", 237 pounds and 6'3", 229 pounds respectively. Quite the coincidence.

But his size isn't the question. The real concern is who is behind him. At first glance the depth at tight end (behind starter Michael Williams and Johnson) looks fantastic, and that's because it is.

  • Malcolm Faciane, 6'5", 259 pounds
  • Harrison Jones, 6'4", 244 pounds
  • Brian Vogler, 6'7", 258 pounds
  • Brent Calloway, 6'1", 217 pounds

There is some serious talent in this group and incredible size. Johnson must have been something really special to win the starting job over these guys. Either he is that good or they are just that bad. Given Saban's track record, I'm leaning toward the former.

In addition, Johnson was going to be utilized much more after running back/fullback/halfback Jalston Fowler's season-ending knee injury.

Saban has yet to speak about the pending issues, and though that will soon change, it is certain that this event is going to have a negative impact on the team.

Kelly Johnson may just be an walk-on H-back, but he is a starter at the University of Alabama, and you don't earn that role without an incredible amount of intestinal fortitude.

His ability to become a starter on a team predicted by many to win the national championship (again) is a testament to his character.

But character on the field can only go so far in a court of law.