- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jory Johnson recorded a career-high 14 tackles in Connecticut's win Saturday over Buffalo, earning him a spot on the Big East's weekly honor roll. The fifth-year captain takes the conference's No. 1 defense into Piscataway, N.J., this weekend for a tilt with No. 22 Rutgers.
ESPN.com caught up with Johnson this week to talk about his expectations as Big East play begins.
It was a career-day for you numbers-wise Saturday. What worked well for you?
Jory Johnson: I had a pretty good feel of what the offense did coming into the game, and I think I was just around the ball a lot. I knew a lot of the sets and some of the calls that they usually go to in certain situations, so I think I was a little more tuned-in to that this week than I have been in previous weeks, so I was able to get around the ball a lot.
What's it like playing alongside Sio [Moore] and Yawin [Smallwood]?
JJ: We work really well together. We're always trying to work our hardest to push each other to be better and every day get better in practice through weight-lifting or anything like that. So we're always trying to push each other. We're all pretty talented, and Sio and Yawin are talented guys, so working next to them really helps me out.
Why do you think you were named a captain?
JJ: I just think because everybody's seen how hard I've worked. I'm not the most vocal guy in the world, but they see the hard work and dedication I've put into the program over the years. And I just come to work every day as hard as I can and I show it in my actions, not really doing much talking. I think they realize that and I think a lot of my teammates respect me for that.
Teammates have said you're not the most vocal guy. I'd imagine you're more of a lead-by-example type?
JJ: Yeah, that's more my style.
What are your goals for this defense this year?
JJ: I just hope we can be one of the top ones in the country, be one of the best in the Big East in all categories. That's what we strive for every day. That's what we're working toward. I just want us to be one of the most productive defenses in the country with sacks, TFLS, turnovers and one of the best in the Big East.
Any personal ones for you, numbers-wise?
JJ: Usually I just come into the season, I try to get 100-plus tackles and a couple of interceptions here and there. That's usually what I go into the season thinking about.
What do you guys needs to improve on as a defense going into conference play?
JJ: Just taking out a couple big plays. The last couple weeks we've given up big chunk plays to Western Michigan and Buffalo. I think that's the biggest thing we need to improve on, is not giving up big plays. If guys are going to complete passes on us, we know that, and they have talented guys. Things are going to happen. But we don't want to do things like turn a 10-yard curl into a 70-yard touchdown. We want to make sure we eliminate big things from happening. If they make a play that's fine, just get guys on the ground and make sure they don't turn it into a bigger play than it needs to be.
Do you guys look at this weekend as the second part of season?
JJ: Yeah we were talking about it earlier this week, how this is our Big East season. All the games we have left are in Big East play. So we had the nonconference part of our season; this is the in-conference part of our season. We kind of split it up like that. This is a big game. It can set the tone for our Big East play for the rest of the season. So we're going into this like the beginning of the second half of our season and we need to get off to a good start.
18hDavid M. Hale