Soph Returns Full-Time to Defense for Preseason after Spring Receiver Trial

He’s changed his jersey number for 2016. He’s not changing his position.

Nope, Jamal Peters is officially a defensive Dog. At least that is what the man himself says, as does his head coach. The spring tryout at wide receiver was just that, a spring tryout.

“Right now I’m just really focused on defense,” Peters said. “Trying to learn the plays and become a better leader.”

Oh, and in the process become a starter. That is very much on the true sophomore’s mind as Mississippi State preseason practicing opens today.

There is not going to be a MSU-provided depth chart during camp. Still based on both spring ball and comments from coaches and players it seems reasonably clear Peters begins his second campus August in the second safety rotation. This is not a surprise really. Not with strong-spot Brandon Bryant and free Kivon Coman both well-seasoned SEC safeties.

It’s something Peters plans to correct to his tastes in coming weeks, or at most months.

“Right now I’m at free safety. I know I can cover the field with my speed. But I like to tackle people. So me and Kivon are competing for the free safety spot.”

It won’t be a shocker if Peters wins in the end. This outstanding athlete has been on a fast track since arriving in 2015, playing in a dozen true freshman games both as backup safety and on special teams. Peters ended up with 25 tackles, breaking up a couple of passes and blitzing for a sack.

Not bad for a backup under any SEC circumstance. But…not good enough for Peters.

“I think I had an average first season. I started out kind of nervous.” Whoa, nervous? Yes. Even a guy who did everything, everywhere for Bassfield High realized college ball was another game. Or it was until Peters settled in and made the plays.

“My best game was against Missouri so I got comfortable in the middle of the season. I feel I had an average season but this season should be even better.”

How so? Let’s call it the difference between starting camp tense like last year; and starting out intense this August. It relates to what Peters repeats, that he just needs to play full-speed, full-time.

Oh, and to focus on his main job. Not that giving him an April shot at wide receiver was a mistake. In fact, Coach Dan Mullen and coordinator Billy Gonzales like Peters’ potential for catching passes as much as covering them. Maybe more?

“It was just basically telling me get ready for offense. I mean I’m good at defense but he said for my future lies at receiver.” Plus, the early loss of De’Runnya Wilson and dismissal of Fred Brown left State short on outside receivers with speed and strength.

So for a couple of days, there was Peters running routes and catching some balls. Or he did before a hand injury that same week. “If my hand had been well for spring I think I would have had a good offensive period.”

Giving Peters back to defense full-time wasn’t a comment on his abilities, but on how State handled some unexpected recruiting. Mullen said the staff considered looking for another safety-type prospect first. Then a pair of new receivers became available and eligible in Osirus Mitchell and Reginald Todd.

“Part of the decision was what direction we want him to go in the future,” Mullen said. “With late signings we found somebody that fit (receiver). We decided he’s going to go to defense.”

Whether Peters stays on defense the rest of his Bulldog career will be worth watching. What matters right now is taking that next step up the safety depth chart.

“I’m trying to start this year,” Peters said. “I’m just trying to get my name back out there and get a place.”

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