Carvin Johnson has a one-track focus.

“I love making interceptions,” he said. “I don’t like to make the big hit … I like us to have the ball.”

When it came to the Michigan football team’s spring game Saturday, the sophomore safety’s ball-hawking mentality was evident. Johnson had one “official” interception to go along with another one — an overthrown ball that fell into his lap — that was called off due to a penalty.

On the one that counted, sophomore quarterback Devin Gardner threw a deep ball down the middle of the field, overthrowing his receiver. Johnson shifted over and laid out, snagging the ball just before it hit ground.

“He’s done that throughout camp,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “That’s one thing he’s showed is he’s the kind of guy who always shows up where the ball is.”

The troubles of last year’s secondary have been well documented: a big part of the 108th-ranked defense, in the bottom 10 in terms of pass defense in the nation. And all spring, the talk of how to improve the defensive backfield has focused on who hasn’t been on the field rather than who has. Redshirt junior J.T. Floyd and fifth-year senior Troy Woolfolk both sat out the spring game, still recovering from ankle injuries.

Johnson was on the field and could be a bigger part of the fix. Michigan coach Brady Hoke said earlier in the week Johnson had taken a leadership role on the back end as one of the more vocal players.

It may be a comfort issue — Johnson is returning to the position he played in high school after playing spur linebacker last season. He played with the first-team defense Saturday alongside sophomore Courtney Avery, redshirt junior Jordan Kovacs and redshirt senior Tony Anderson, but he hasn’t solidified a starting spot.

With Kovacs, sophomore Marvin Robinson and Thomas Gordon vying for playing time, the battle should continue well into fall practice.

For now, Johnson led a secondary that had a couple of turnovers but also gave up a couple big plays — a long pass and a 68-yard run — that led to the offense’s two touchdowns.

“That safety has got to be the guy to get them down,” Mattison said. “They have to get the guy down if he breaks through the that line of scrimmage. I’m going to say there’s a play or two there where the safety wasn’t where he’s supposed to be.”

The secondary as a whole came ready to play. Anderson broke up a fade route to redshirt junior Roy Roundtree on the opening drive. Johnson made his negated interception the next drive.

Saturday was the first step for a secondary still on the mend from getting beaten all of 2010 and still adjusting to the new defensive scheme that Hoke and Mattison are putting in place.

“It’s about being more aggressive, that’s all it’s about,” Johnson said. “(Secondary coach Curt) Mallory talks to us about it every day, ‘Stop playing so tentative and just go at it.’ Because if we sit back on wide receivers, they make moves on us and we’re done.”

And judging by Johnson’s and the secondary’s spring game, both are far from done.

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