In the Southeastern Conference, competition is often never too foreign. With the hotbed of talent that is high school football in the South, most of the region’s touted prospects, if given the opportunity, stay at home for college.
Run-ins between former teammates or relatives are the norm. This weekend, one of the Tigers’ best storylines is on tap.
LSU has Patrick Peterson; Auburn has Walter McFadden. Both are cornerbacks, and both are widely considered to be among the elite in the conference.
The two have a connection that runs back to their days in south Miami, where both Tigers suited up at Ely High on Friday nights in Pompano Beach.
Before those nights were the days of their youth, which Peterson said was spent largely alongside McFadden.
“We lived right around the block from each other, and if I was not at his house, he was at mine,” he said. “Every other day we were around each other and being competitive.”
When college came for McFadden, the three-star prospect was tabbed as the No. 42 cornerback in the country. Despite an offer from the in-state Gators, McFadden joined Auburn’s 2005 class.
Three seasons later, Peterson was ready to make his college decision. Ranked as the No. 1 cornerback in the country, Peterson had offers from any college of his choosing. He moved into the LSU camp late, and he stayed until signing day.
Both now members of the SEC West, showdowns like Saturday’s were on tap for two straight seasons.
That meant that competitive nature returned as the only thing that mattered between the pair.
“We talk at least two or three times a week,” Peterson said. “The only time we really trash talk is around game time. Last year, I gave him an earful of what would happen.”
Fortunately LSU escaped from The Plains with a win. If the same good fortune is in stock for Baton Rouge on Saturday remains to be seen.
For Peterson, the thought of not just starting in his first Auburn-LSU game, but being in Death Valley, has added some confidence to his approach in their second and final match up (McFadden is a redshirt senior).
“This year, I am in my backyard,” Peterson said. “I can talk a little more with the crowd behind me.”
In 2008, Peterson did not start until the back end of the season. Now, the sophomore has jumped both Chris Hawkins and Jai Eugene to become the Tigers’ primary cornerback.
“I am definitely having the season I envisioned,” he said. “I am coming off last year and my four starts, and I think that I have played pretty strong.
“This season the interceptions are not there yet, but they will come.”
Peterson said that his confidence is born through not just his play, but the preparation from first year defensive backs coach Ron Cooper.
“He is helping me see a lot more that I can do.”
Against Auburn, a team whose offense ranks seventh in the country, he will need it.
LSU faces a spread attack that relies primarily on a power-based run game. Yet, when quarterback Chris Todd decides to put the ball in the air, look out for No. 7.
“I want them to throw the ball,” Peterson said. “They threw the ball against Arkansas a good amount of times; it just gives me a greater chance for an interception.
“Coach Chavis is going to have a good defensive game plan. Our ears are pinned back and we are ready to play.”
Of course, due credit was handed over to Gus Malzahn, who has the Tiger offense on the fast-track to becoming one of the nation’s most prolific attacks.
“Last year was their first year in the spread, and this year they look a lot more confident,” Peterson said. “There are a lot of new looks from what I saw, and they will come out and do what they can to take home the win.”
Coming up short against No. 1 Florida their last time out, the rested Bayou Bengal defense appears poised to continue their strong start into the backstretch.
“Obviously we are not used to losing, so there is a bitter taste in our mouth,” Peterson said. “We have to prepare harder than we did against Florida. Auburn has obviously put up a lot of points. Last year we went and stole one, and this year we want another.”