Kicking it with Johnthan Banks

Don’t forget about Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks when you start reeling off the SEC’s top cornerbacks this season.

Every week, he plays his way right into first-team, All-SEC consideration and is having a terrific season. The 6-2, 185-pound junior is tied for the SEC lead with five interceptions and leads the league with 13 passes defended.

Banks has 12 interceptions for his career and is just four away from tying Walt Harris’ school record of 16. The SEC career record is 20, shared by Ole Miss’ Bobby Wilson (1946-49) and LSU’s Chris Williams (1977-80).

Banks, who’s returned three of his career interceptions for touchdowns, took some time earlier this week to talk about his season and what it’s going to take for the Bulldogs to turn things around these last five weeks heading into Saturday’s game at Kentucky:

What needs to happen if you guys are going to finish up this season the way you want to?

Johnthan Banks: We just have to come together as a team, as one, and play to our ability and do all the little things right. We haven’t been doing that. We just have to play like we’re capable of playing.

Do you feel like you guys have even come close to playing your best football at any point this season?

JB: No, we haven’t played one of our “A” games yet. Probably the closest was LSU on defense, and we also played OK in spots against Auburn. We haven’t put it all together, and I feel like we can do it this week. We’re coming off the bye week, got all our guys rested up and healthy. It’s time we show what kind of team we are.

How would you assess the way you’ve played this season individually?

JB: I’ve played well, but I feel like I can do more. I’ve made some plays, but I’ve given up some plays. I feel like there’s so much more I could do for the team to help this team get better.

Going back to your younger days, have you always been a ball hawk and had that sixth sense of knowing where the football was going to be?

JB: It’s come pretty naturally to me. I’ve always had good ball skills, but I feel like I have gotten better in knowing what an opponent is going to do. That comes with studying film and putting in the time when you’re not out there on the practice field. It’s something I knew I had to do. You against so many great players in this league. You have to find any advantage you can.

You’re closing in on Walt Harris’ career interception record there at Mississippi State. Is that in your sights?

JB: I feel like I’m going to break it this year. I’ve got confidence in myself, and I think people are going to continue to throw at me. I look forward to breaking it this year.

Have teams shied away at all from throwing to your side this season?

JB: This is the SEC. Ain’t nobody scared of nobody. They’ll throw at anybody. It doesn’t matter who it is. They’re going to come at you.

You also played some safety earlier in your career. Which position do you like best?

JB: I love playing corner because I love competing. That’s one thing about corner. You have to compete every play. You can’t ever take a down off. If you do, you’re going to get embarrassed.

You’ve faced a lot of great receivers in this league. Who’s the best one you’ve gone against?

JB: He’s not in the SEC, but I feel like (Quinton Patton) from Louisiana Tech is the best receiver I’ve played against since I’ve been here. I’ve gone against some good ones in the SEC, too, but he’s probably the most complete.

If you’re going to be a great cornerback, what’s paramount?

JB: You’ve got to have good awareness. You’ve got to know what’s going on. And the thing about corner is that you have to be able to cover, tackle and do it all.

You held South Carolina to 14 points in your last game, and granted it was a loss, but are you getting closer to where you want to be defensively as a team?

JB: Even though we held South Carolina to 14 points, that wasn’t good enough. We’ve got to start shutting people out. If that’s what it’s going to take to start winning games, then that’s what we’ve got to do.

When people mention the top cornerbacks in this league, do you feel like you belong right up there near the top?

JB: I feel like I’m one of the top guys, but I’ve always felt like I was one of the top guys. That’s just me. I feel like I can compete with anybody. I just love playing the game and never feel like there’s anybody out there better than me.

Are you a big talker on the field?

JB: I was back when I was a younger guy. I talked a lot back then. Right now, I’m at the point in my career where I don’t go out there and do much talking. I just go out and play, compete and have fun.

Who are the big talkers in this league?

JB: It’s not like you might think. There are some. Joe Adams from Arkansas is a big talker, but he backs it up. Most of the guys who do talk a lot are doing it because they’re not comfortable out there and are trying to give themselves confidence.