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Gifted Dog Athlete Getting Comfortable in His Latest Assignment

For the record, Jamal Peters DID have a tiny bit of cornerback experience before coming to college. It just wasn’t good experience.

“I did it one play in high school. Against Mark McLaurin, for the game-winning touchdown. He beat me inside and ever since then I ain’t played over there!”

Or not until last Saturday evening. That’s when the safety-turned-cornerback turned a corner of sorts. Rotating in at left cornerback, Peters read a deep South Carolina strike down the middle perfectly, came across and picked the pass.

It was Mississippi State’s first interception of 2016. And, obviously, the first for a sophomore who may, may have finally found his ideal college position.

Not that Peters was a slacker at safety. He certainly fits the physical bill (build?) at 6-2, 217. Working in rotation there last season Peters tallied 25 tackles with a sack and two broken-up passes.

Now, he has caught one, showing a growing comfort level at cornerback.

“It probably took about a week. I mean, once I started learning the steps to play it got easy to me. Now I don’t have any problem with it, I’m actually glad I’m playing corner. I like the position.”

So exactly what is likable about it after spending a career in the middle of the field, and middle of the action? “Safety, you’re like the quarterback of the defense. So you have to do a lot of communication.

“With corner you have to win your matchup. Being one-on-one and competing every play, I mean you’ve got to be physical and know what you’re doing.”

Being physical ought have been Peters’ ticket at safety. It’s just that with the aforementioned classmate McLaurin, senior Kivon Coman and third-year soph Brandon Bryant on the safety roster cracking the starting squad was going to be tough.

Then, with two weeks left in preseason, veteran cornerbacks Cedric Jiles and Tolando Cleveland both went down with practice injuries. Jiles could return in October; Cleveland needs a medical reprieve for 2017. Meanwhile depth was way, way down and fast help needed.

“In fall camp they came up to me, we’d like to try you at corner. It wasn’t any problem. I went over there and did what I had to do and now I don’t have any problem playing at corner.”

For that matter Peters had a run at catching passes back in spring ball. He was moved to the other entire side of the squad in April for a couple of days, as Coach Dan Mullen and staff sought another physical receiver.

“I went over there and did what I had to do,” Peters said. Or he did before, on the second day, cracking a hand and wearing a club-type wrap that made receiving impractical. “Then I told him I wanted to go back and play defense because that’s what I like to do. He moved me back over there.”

Maybe this is the move that sticks, though if not Peters is amenable to testing himself anywhere and everywhere. Including kick return if given a chance.

And yes, offense still has its attractions…

“I mean, I think about it. I see Fred Ross going scoring a touchdown, yeah, I want to go over there! Every time I see them score I think about it. But right now I’m loving the position at corner and the position I’m at.”

He even loves, or says so anyway, the pending challenge of LSU’s play-action game with some of the fastest receivers anywhere. Peters isn’t shy though. He even is asking Coach Terrell Buckley to let him cover the biggest Tiger wideout.

This isn’t his first trip to Tiger Stadium, by the way. He made an official visit back in 2014, the same weekend as now-teammate LB Leo Lewis in fact.

“I just want to show them why they recruited me real hard. LSU vs. Auburn, me and Leo. So me and Leo are taking the game very serious, we talk about it every day.”

What isn’t a conversation so much this week is that long-ago high school matchup. Or not any more this fall. That McLaurin touchdown let Collins beat Bassfield in overtime.

“If we bring it up, like when our high schools play each other, things like ‘Mal remember the time I beat you inside?’”

But since Bassfield just stomped Collins High last Friday, that commentary has likely closed.

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