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Indiana junior safety Jamar Johnson has declared for the NFL Draft.

He becomes the third Hoosier to announce an intent to go pro, though he is the first non-senior to do so. Receiver Whop Philyor and offensive lineman Harry Crider have both declared for the draft when NCAA rules would have permitted them to return for another season.

Johnson was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2020, finishing second on the Hoosiers with 43 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. He also tied with Jaylin Williams for the team lead with four interceptions.

As a sophomore, Johnson was a backup to Marcelino Ball at the hybrid “husky” position but received signifigant playing time. His playmaking skills intrigued IU’s coaching staff enough to put him back at a true safety position.

Johnson’s ball-hawking helped spur on a defense that led the nation with 17 interceptions in the regular season.

“When you go back and look at this season, one of the best things we’ve done is to be able to utilize our personnel and maximize our players,” former IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said in December. “I’ve certainly made plenty of mistakes in my career, and I’ll make others. But moving Jamar to that free safety position certainly wasn’t one of them. That’s one we hit big on.”

This is the first big hit IU’s defense has suffered this offseason, as seniors like Ball, defensive end Mike Ziemba, and defensive back Raheem Layne have all announced an intent to return for 2021. IU’s defense is mostly sophomores and juniors, including All-American linebacker Micah McFadden and cornerback Tiawan Mullen.

IU defensive tackle Jerome Johnson, a fifth-year senior and first-team All-Big Ten selection, was the lone announcement withstanding about the 2021 season as of Monday afternoon.

At safety, IU is slated to return junior safety Devon Matthews, as well as redshirt junior Juwan Burgess. One younger player who could be in line for more playing time is freshman Bryson Bonds, who earned praise from IU’s coaching staff in fall camp. He appeared in all eight games in 2020, mainly on special teams, collecting two tackles.

IU also has a more veteran option in Layne, who has played most of his career at corner but moved to safety in spring. He was inevitably sidelined for the 2020 season due to injury.

In a statement on social media, Johnson thanked IU’s coaching staff as well as the fan base.

“I have loved my time at IU, will always bleed cream and crimson,” Johnson wrote. “Thank you for the support and Go Hoosiers!”

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