It is tough enough to replace any starter in college football, much less your best friend and a third round pick into the NFL. While UCF senior cornerback A.J. Bouye learned alongside current Minnesota Viking Josh Robinson, he now assumes all his responsibilities as leader of the secondary.
Bouye will be stepping into those big shoes while also battling back from injury. On his way to a big year in 2011 with two interceptions through seven starts, he suffered a knee ligament tear against UAB.
Ten months removed from that moment, doctors have told him he is 100 percent healthy, so Bouye is without distraction as he prepares to replace Robinson.
“Coming from being best friends, it is going to be different knowing he’s not on the other side,” said Bouye. “I have to improve more on my technique, I already have the speed. I’ve just been watching film of Josh, that’s really about it. Trying to see how he would play this position, with more zone coverage, and just recognizing where my help is.”
Transitioning from his spot on the other side at boundary corner to Robinson’s field corner position carries greater duties. Head coach George O’Leary feels like Bouye has all the physical skills to get the job done, but time will tell if talent equals production.
“He’s a fourth year guy,” said O’Leary. “When it’s your turn, it’s like everything else, step up and get it done. Your field corner is very important. (The opposition) has to feel threatened every time a guy like that is on the field. If they are going to throw a lot of balls out there, he has to get his hands on a bunch of them.”
Robinson’s shutdown ability between the lines was just one aspect of his role on the football team. As Bouye detailed, the two-time Conference USA First Team selection became an example for how to handle yourself on and off the field.
Now, Bouye must do that for a corner group that is young and unsettled. Brandon Alexander, Jordan Ozerities, Bruce Dukes, and Jacoby Glenn are all underclassmen vying to fill that second spot.
Like any role model, the work Bouye puts in is not just a selfish act, but also done for those that look up to him.
“I’m like the type that usually talks to the underclassmen, because I’ve been through it,” says Bouye. “I just tell them what to do and how to go about things. I’m trying to improve because I know the underclassmen are watching me.”
With a great deal of uncertainty opposite Bouye, times may occur throughout the course of the season where he has to lock down his side of the field on his own. Safeties will frequently be sent to help on the other corner’s assignments.
Robinson excelled in this role, creating what many in football refer to as an “island”. Being able to take the opposition’s number one receiving threat out of a game on your own is something ace defensive backs thrive on.
Also embracing that task, Bouye’s display name on Twitter is “Bouye Island”, reminding him always of his importance to the Knights’ success this year.
“It’s motivational,” said Bouye of the Twitter designation. “You get beat here and there, but I’m trying get beat less. Trying to go in every day to just work hard so I can have my own island and shut down a lot of receivers.”