Position-by-Position Breakdowns: Cornerbacks
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 30, 2013 00:08
There was an important name left off all of last season’s All-Mid-American Conference teams. It was the name of a player who has cemented himself as a premier player in the conference: senior cornerback Najja Johnson.
In 2012, Johnson had arguably his best season in a Bulls uniform. He finished second on the team in secondary tackles (43) and led the conference in interceptions (five).
His five interceptions ranked 13th nationally.
“It’s disappointing when you pour your heart out and you feel like you played your best and you get left off something like that,” Johnson said. “But at the end of the day, you can’t hang onto the past. I’m looking forward to [this season], and I’m making my play noticeable to the point that they can’t leave me off the list.”
Anchored by Johnson and the chip on his shoulder, Buffalo’s secondary looks to be promising this season.
Though the NFL could be in Johnson’s future, the Bulls’ season is what’s on his mind.
“It’s definitely been mentioned,” Johnson said. “But at the end of the day, I’m focused on UB first.”
Junior defensive back Cortney Lester arrived at the University at Buffalo following a career as a standout wide receiver at Everglades High School in Florida. He recorded 31 receptions for 500 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, displaying quickness and speed that earned attention from Buffalo.
Fast-forward to 2013 and Lester is on the defensive side of the ball, lining up across from the position he once played.
In 2011, Quinn and his staff decided to switch Lester from receiver to the cornerback position because the Bulls needed depth at cornerback. He has been a standout ever since. Lester led all cornerbacks that season with 54 tackles.
He followed his first year with a 2012 campaign that included 39 tackles, 10 passes defended and four interceptions, good for second in the conference.
Since moving to the opposite side of the ball, Lester has developed a strong bond with senior defensive back Najja Johnson.
“He’s a great student of the game,” Lester said.
The two provide a dual threat on the corners for opposing teams. This is the last year they will play together.
“We’re going to be the No. 1 secondary in the MAC,” Lester said.