NFL can tap Texas for offense, defense Top RB Benson has counterpart in OLB Johnson By JOHN MCCLAIN Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle RESOURCES ABOUT THE WRITER: John McClain covers the NFL for the Chronicle. His extended NFL Notebook is posted online every Sunday. MORE: Chronicle's NFL coverage AUDIO: John McClain: • Muhammad heads to Bears • Clarett struggles at scouting combine • NFL cuts include Rice, Muhammad • Future stars in spotlight at scouting combine Requires the free RealPlayer or Flash. INDIANAPOLIS - The first linebacker and running back selected in the NFL draft could come from the University of Texas. Outside linebacker Derrick Johnson, who could project to inside in a 3-4 defense, and running back Cedric Benson should be among the top 15 picks in April. "I don't know which one of us will go first, probably Cedric," John-son said Sunday at the NFL scouting combine. At this point in the evaluation process, Benson is one of the top three backs, along with Auburn's Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. Johnson, who was measured and weighed Sunday at 6-3 1/4 and 242 pounds, is the highest-rated player at his position. "It depends on what they want — offense or defense," Benson said. "Derrick's an awesome player." Johnson (Waco) and Benson (Midland) are native Texans who stayed at UT through their senior years, and both are about to become millionaires. Johnson earned Benson's respect during their four years with the Longhorns. "Derrick's speed is amazing, and he's an amazing player," Benson said. "He can't be blocked. He can't be stopped. He showed it to us every Saturday. I got chances to play against him, and all he did was make me better. I knew he wasn't going to be blocked, so I had to get to the hole and make a play." That respect is mutual. "Oh, man, it was really a privilege to go against guys like Cedric," Johnson said. "He helped all of us on defense because he's so quick and explosive. He kept me on my toes and made sure I didn't slack up. Cedric's been a great asset and helped me through my career at Texas." Range called a plus When analyzing Johnson, NFL scouts are impressed with his speed, athleticism and knack for making big plays. But they also say he needs to get stronger and improve at the point of attack when he has to take on and then shed blockers. "He's got good size and speed, and he's very smooth and athletic," said Mike Maccagnan, Texans coordinator of college scouting. "He's got great range and makes a lot of impressive plays from sideline to sideline." Johnson comes from a football family. His brother, Dwight Johnson, was a defensive lineman at Baylor who played for the Giants and Eagles. His cousin, Bert Emanuel, played quarterback at Rice before becoming a 1,000-yard receiver for the Falcons and Buccaneers. "My brother told me to enjoy the ride because you only get one chance to get drafted," Johnson said. "He told me to do my best, take it all in and to say humble. Bert told me the same things, but he reminded me that I'm in it for the long run." Work in pass defense At Texas, Johnson spent more time in pass coverage than he did rushing the passer. He'll get a lot of opportunities to do both in the NFL. What scouts want to see are more of the big plays he made for Texas. "Coach (former Longhorns defensive coordinator Greg) Robinson always taught us to strip the ball," Johnson said. "For some reason, every time I try to stop a person, I'm thinking (about the) ball — just find a way to get the ball out. And it's been working. "Coach Robinson saw a lot of flaws as far as me moving too fast, and he wanted me to slow down so I'd improve at getting to the ball. I played under control more. I didn't get fooled as much by play-action (fakes), and I was in better position to make plays." And now Johnson is in position to make millions of dollars at the next level.