NORMAN — At first glance, Cortez Johnson doesn’t look like the typical defensive back. The Oklahoma sophomore’s dimensions point toward him being something else.
He’s tall enough to be one of the Sooners’ over-the-top deep threats at wide receiver. In fact, he’s tall enough to be one of OU basketball coach Lon Kruger’s guards. At the very least, you’d think he’s someone OU expects to grow into another position.
But, no, the 6-foot-2, 198-pound Johnson is right where the Sooner coaching staff wants him — cornerback.
“I know I’m big,” Johnson said. “But at the end of the day, that really doesn’t mean anything. If you don’t have technique, you can’t really do anything with your body.”
The ability to do things with their bodies that most humans can’t makes the cornerback spot one of the few where a small man can still defend. The spot puts a premium on the ability to backpedal and then swivel the hips and turn into a full sprint.
Few can do it. Those who can are highly sought. Those who can do it and still stand nose-to-nose with big receivers are at a premium.
But getting defenders like Johnson is the reaction to the spread offenses that have engulfed the Big 12 over the years.
Many liken the spread offenses to basketball on the football field. The analogy is accurate. A good quarterback is like a good point guard. He finds open receivers the way a good point guard pinpoints open shooters.
Basketball coaches figured out years ago the way to counteract a spread was with lanky defenders who could cover a lot of space. Johnson, and others like him, will give the Sooner secondary that same look on the football field.