When fall camp kicked off at this time last season, Patrick Peterson wasn’t ready to step forward and call himself the leader of LSU’s defense.
Playing alongside veteran cornerbacks Chris Hawkins and Jai Eugene and on the same side of the ball as a senior-heavy linebacker corps, the rising sophomore – who recorded four starts across 13 games played during his freshman season – deferred to the more experienced names of the group when it came to instruction and leadership.
365 days later Peterson is one of just four returning starters to defensive coordinator John Chavis’ side, and he isn’t hesitant to let teammates know who will steer the defensive vessel through the waters of the coming season.
“He just walks with a swagger,” said senior receiver Terrance Toliver, who drew up a quick comparison between Peterson and NBA star Lebron James.
When asked when he knew that Peterson – ranked as the nation’s top cornerback prospect coming out of high school – was in line for great things in purple and gold, the senior wideout pulled a scene from Peterson’s opening act.
“(Peterson) had about three interceptions in the first practice when he got here,” Toliver said. “He’s just a big, physical guy who’s very smart.”
For fans of the unusual, Peterson might be one of the most talked about cornerbacks in college football. At 6-foot-1, Peterson carried 226 pounds through spring workouts – a weight well above that of most college corners.
When the team was tested during the summer months, the rising junior went 11-feet, 1-inch in the broad jump and recorded a 4.37 laser-timed 40-yard dash. In the weight room, he benched 335 pounds and squatted 535.
Essentially, Peterson’s proved to be the Michael Ford of the defensive side.
“(Peterson) is at about 222 pounds now,” said Miles after Thursday’s practice. “He’s just a little lighter, but he has great speed and is awfully strong. He’s one of the fastest guys on our team.”
With speedster Trindon Holliday gone from the program Miles turned to Peterson for help, and he took on the call by accepting the return duties on special teams - the first time since his high school days in south Florida that Peterson will have the ball in his hands every night out.
As always, Peterson’s approach to the new role is business-like with an undertone of unbreakable confidence.
“I told coach (Tommy) Moffitt to get me ready for the season, because it’s going to be a long ride,” he said. “I have to be at tip-top shape. As a player I want to be great, so I take that challenge.”