Passing on the torch

Field cornerback Jordan Johnson is one of the more athletic players on BYU's defense, let alone the entire team. His footwork, quick-twitch muscle reflex, body control and speed are among the best in the secondary, if not the best. Former Cougar corner Corby Eason is confident about passing the torch to Johnson and compares him to a current NFL player.

Coming in at 5 feet 10 inches and 185 pounds, redshirt sophomore Jordan Johnson is ready to take on the responsibilities of being BYU's field side cornerback, a position that's highly visible, vulnerable and often scrutinized.

"I am in a lot better shape than I have been in the past and that takes care of everything, so I transition out of the break a lot quicker," Johnson said. "I have been here two years and so I know the defense a lot better. It took some time and now my time has come and I am ready to show everybody what I've got."

When it comes to confidence, Johnson oozes it. He has that 1,000-yard stare that says, "I'm coming for you."

"Very much so," Johnson said with a serious look. "That's why we play the game, so we can beat and dominate others. I am going to enjoy this upcoming season. My momma always told me to just stay modest and play within yourself. So, when I come out on Saturdays you will see I am confident about my athletic ability, and I know for a fact that whoever I line up against out there to cover, I'll be able to do so. So I guess come Saturdays you're just going to see."

There is no doubt that he can cover in the short game and downfield when receivers look to stretch the secondary. When one adds players like Joe Sampson, Daniel Sorensen and Preston Hadley to the mix in a nickel defense, you have a group of BYU cover guys that will be imposing.

"I feel good about the nickel defense and playing in it," Johnson said. "Joe is fast, big, and we'll be able to cover. Having five defensive backs instead of the opposing four will make it tough for receivers and quarterbacks. As far as the nickel, Joe locks that position down.

"I like the nickel defense that we run here. It gives everybody an opportunity to play within themselves. We don't have to extend ourselves, and when that happens you don't run the risk of playing outside yourself. Our linebackers are all athletic and fast, but having a DB within cover skill will help us out even more so."

When the lights of LaVell Edwards Stadium flash on and highlight the field starting this fall, fans will see in Johnson a talented player squaring off against the best receivers that opponents will throw at BYU's defense. However – and this is just as important – that fans will also see a cornerback that is smart.

"Where I lack in experience, I hope I gain in my knowledge," Johnson said. "Where I have been here two years, I feel that I know the defense as well as anybody else, and just because I say this is my first year, that [doesn't mean] I won't be ready. I will be ready and I can't wait. There are 10 returning starters on this defense and I use that as a positive. At the same time, I am just trying to add to the group and trying to help in any way I can."

To prepare himself for the role of starter, Johnson took his responsibilities to heart. He stayed in Provo over the summer and put in the time in preparation for fall camp.

"Just doing the little things like technique and footwork is what I focused a lot on," said Johnson, who already has some of the best footwork for a cornerback on the team. "I have been doing a lot of that over the summer with a couple of my teammates and just taking on a bigger role this year [after] playing behind Corby [Eason] and learning from him last year. Now that I am taking over and whatnot, that's the biggest transition that I will be ready for."

In fact, it was Eason who took Johnson under his wing when he first arrived on campus.

"When I came in here, I wouldn't say I was alone," Johnson said of his teammates who welcomed him in with open arms. "When I came here I had no family and whatnot, and [Eason] took me in under his wing along with Brian Logan, and I have been learning from them for the past two years. So, Corby has been an influence in my life and in my football career. I ain't going to sugarcoat anything – I wouldn't be here right now if I didn't have someone to look up to."

With the likes of Logan and Eason, Johnson is following two very successful field side cornerbacks that had gained the trust and support of BYU fans. Logan and Eason both were loved and endeared by Cougar fans because of their heart and playmaking ability.

"Knowing it's him out there at the field corner position, I can sleep better at night," Eason said with his trademark smile. "I don't have to worry about, ‘Who is going to take my place?' I feel I can pass along that torch to him without any worries or hesitation. That's kind of how I feel. He's got the torch now and I think he's going to carry it all the way."

In fact, over fall camp so far, quarterbacks have somewhat shied away from Johnson's side of the field. Rarely does he get beat, and when he does, his recovery time is very quick, allowing him to be in the mix to make a defensive play.

"I've been running around everywhere and our quarterbacks haven't been throwing to my side that much, but fall camp has been good so far," Johnson said. "I've been making plays in one-on-ones and have been making my plays at that time."

"From watching Jordan the last couple of years, he's a special kid," said Eason. "He's going to surprise a lot of people. People just don't understand how much he's going to do and help the defense out. He's going to be shutting down the number-one receiver every week. That's so important. "

In fact, Eason compared Johnson to a current NFL cornerback.

"He reminds me so much of Joe Haden who started at Florida who is now with the Cleveland Browns," said Eason. "Out of high school, Joe Haden came out playing quarterback. When he got to Florida they moved him to corner. It's the same transition that Jordan has made. When I see Jordan run and the way he covers, it's like I'm watching Joe Haden. I just see flashes of greatness in my eyes."

"Well, I'm ready to prove myself," Johnson said with a smile. "I didn't come here not to."

As of right now Johnson is on the path to doing great things. Being young, he'll have his hiccups, but one thing is certain: he has all the tools, the focus and the demeanor to be something special by the time he hangs up his blue and white helmet of BYU.

"In Jordan's senior year, he'll probably go down as one of the best cornerbacks BYU has ever had," said Eason. "That's my prediction. By the time he finishes out his senior year he'll be one of the best DBs to come out of this program. As someone who played the position and seen what he can do, that's my prediction."

That's a tall order to live up to, but Johnson will be well up for the challenge.

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