His future is bright

Going into his redshirt freshman campaign, cornerback Charlie Peprah was just aiming to get on the field and get in on some action.

Little did he know that he would start in eight of 13 games, tie for the team-lead in interceptions with four, tally 47 tackles and combine with defensive end Nautyn McKay-Loescher for a sack in the Mississippi State game.

For his efforts, the Plano, Texas native was named a Sporting News 2002 Freshman All-American and was named to the SEC freshman All-SEC team by league coaches, the Knoxville News and the Sporting News.

"I just wanted to play, I wasn't expecting to do all that," Peprah said. "God blessed me and I had a better year than what I thought I would've."

Charlie Peprah in action versus the Sooners. (Associated Press)

Peprah quickly showed a knack for the big play in the big game. His 35-yard interception return for a touchdown against Georgia electrified the crowd, and his equally impressive 48-yard interception return set up another touchdown against Tennessee.

"It was amazing," Peprah said about his first collegiate touchdown against Georgia. "I could've ran through him, but I was like, I'll try to take the ball."

What was his biggest surprise playing in the college ranks?

"These guys are big," Peprah said. "When you look in the backfield and you see those running backs with those arms bulging, you know you're in college."

Last season, Peprah faced off against the best wide receivers and proved his mettle. "Terrence Edwards of Georgia, he's real shifty and quick," Peprah said when asked about his toughest cover from last season. "Those small, shifty ones give you a lot of trouble."

His first start came at nickel back against No. 2 Oklahoma and Peprah was able to take in his surroundings without being overwhelmed by the pageantry of a huge nationally televised game.

"All the fireworks and the pageantry since it was their first home game, I think it was big time for me," Peprah said of the experience. "You don't want to play on raw emotion."

Peprah is a classic cornerback, with excellent foot speed, tremendous agility and outstanding coverage skills. His size and strength at 5-11 give the Tide a lockdown cornerback able to match up against the larger receivers that have become more common in the game today.

With the need to often stack eight men in the box, Peprah is definitely one who is comfortable "out on an island" matched in single coverage on the outside.

"I think I'm a physical cornerback, I try to get hands on you," Peprah said. "I'd rather beat you up with my hands than beat you with my feet. I try to beat you up and not let you run."

According to secondary coach Chris Ball, there are three qualities the Tide coaching staff treasures in defensive backs. "Feet, open-field tackling ability, and the ability to play the deep ball," Ball said. "Those are big pluses for him."

Peprah has spent spring practice with the rest of the defense absorbing the new defensive schemes of Joe Kines. The secondary is adjusting to the transition from press and mixed zone/man coverages of the previous regime to the new scheme with the associated new terminology and assignments.

Both smart and personable, Peprah is a favorite interview for the media.

"The techniques they're [the coaching staff] teaching us are great," Peprah said. "It's different terminology, we're doing a lot more off-man stuff than the press or the zone."

For his work ethic, athleticism and instincts, Peprah has drawn praise from the coaching staff. "They [safety Charles Jones and Peprah] are very, very athletic and are doing good job adjusting to the new coverages and new techniques," Ball said.

"I didn't expect Charlie to be as big as he is," Ball said when asked about the biggest thing that surprised him about Peprah.

In high school, Peprah played mainly tailback, but saw action in the defensive backfield as well. "Growing up, I always played offense," Peprah said. "But I liked DB and I thought defense was more rewarding."

Peprah learned how to be a better defensive back from his experience on the other side of the ball. "Playing receiver and running back, you know what you don't like as a receiver," Peprah said. "You just try to do those things."

Who does Peprah pattern his game after in the pro ranks?

"I guess me being from Dallas, it would have to be Darren Woodson," Peprah said. "I think he's one of the smartest football players ever."

For the upcoming season, Peprah has set some lofty goals for himself.

"I want to be a corner that when you look to my side, you decide to throw the other way," Peprah said. "I want to know what route they're running just by their alignment on the field. I want to be a smarter football player."

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