Johnson ready to play

Cortez Johnson

Cortez Johnson was going to play even without the Jonathan McKnight injury. However, now that McKnight is out, Johnson will see his role expand dramatically.

With the knee injury to cornerback Jonathan McKnight last week, it appears that freshman Cortez Johnson is going to be thrown into game action as a true freshman and asked to make an immediate impact. After preparing all summer long, the New Orleans O. Perry Walker School product is ready to get his collegiate career underway.

"I'm ready to play, we're all ready to play," Johnson said. "We've been out here practicing every day this whole summer just getting ready to play. When it comes down to it, I know we're going to win. I'm just ready right now; I'm too ready. I'm really hyped up."

The chance to come in as a true freshman and earn significant playing time has come as no surprise to Johnson, who has been preparing well before his UA days for this opportunity.

"As a freshman, I already knew I was going to play because I work hard and it's in me," Johnson said. "Every day after practice in high school I always put in extra time. I've put in a lot of work to get in this position right now."

Since arriving in Tucson, Johnson has worked hard to take his physical tools and combine them with the skill needed to excel in the Pac-12.

"I've really improved on my technique," Johnson said. "I've gotten a lot faster, a lot stronger thanks to coach (Corey) Edmond. I'm a lot more physical than I was in high school. It's all about being physical and strong."

One element that the 6-foot-2, 190-pound corner does not need to improve on is his trash talking game, as the freshman can always be heard reminding opponents of his presence as well as their mistakes. However, Johnson is also using his vocal skills to become a leader on defense, and insists his teammates thrive off what he has to say.

"I talk a whole lot on the field," Johnson said. "I like to get in my opponents' heads and take them out of their game; that motivates me even more. I also talk to keep my players going, they like when I talk and when I motivate the whole team. I think we all get better by me talking and running my mouth."

Along with his uncanny ability to overwhelm his opponents mentally, Johnson believes he has the skills to be a cornerback that thrives both in pass and run defense.

"I like to talk a lot, but I also like to jam a lot too," Johnson said. "When the ball is in the air, I'm going to go get it. I'm more of a cover cornerback than anything, but I'll still come down and smash some running backs."

With an obvious confidence and a level of preparedness that is unusual for most freshmen, it's no surprise Johnson expects to make his mark on Saturday's game against Northern Arizona.

"On Saturday, I think I'm going to come out and get my first interception in," Johnson said. "I just want to come out and put on a show for the fans and make things happen."

So come Saturday, Johnson will have the chance to back up all of the talking he's done all camp with his fellow teammates and will have an entirely new team's worth of receivers to converse with. Should he go on to achieve the freshman year that his role model was able to have, there's no reason Johnson won't be able to "talk the talk" and "walk the walk" on his way to the achievement of his goals.

"I pattern my game after Patrick Peterson," Johnson said. "I've been looking up to him since he was at LSU. That's part of the reason I wear number seven; he's my role model and I'm out here trying to be better than him.

"I want to at least be All Pac-12. I want to be a freshman All-American; I'm trying to make it to the top. There's no doubt in my mind I can do it, I'm just ready for the opportunity."

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