Big Egg Bowl Plays Prove Potential for 2017 Success in Secondary

For a fellow who spent spring and summer preparing for one job, only to end up in another, Jamal Peters has quickly made himself at home. Out on a corner, that is.

“I’m way comfortable at it,” Peters said. “I think it should be my permanent position.”

That seems assured now. After a year-plus at safety, and a bit of spring dabbling with receiver, Peters appears set to stick at cornerback. Oh, and his comment about getting comfortable there ought to make many a receiver un-comfortable about future matchups with Mississippi State.

“I mean, me and Coach Buck (Terrell Buckley) talk about it every day.  I’m already used to it, I’m getting way better than I was before I got over there. So it ain’t no problem, I just think I should stay there.”

He isn’t alone. OK, make that Peters isn’t alone in his opinion. Cornerbacks do live an isolated sort of life in single coverage after all. The point is some impressive November plays signal a, shall we say, corner has been turned for this Dog defensive back.

At last, Peters can agree. “You know, many thought I can’t play it, with my size. But I really shocked a lot of people in the game.”

The last game of the 2016 schedule, he means. The game which meant the most to an entire state and to one particular Dog. If Peters had to pick one weekend for his breakout…yeah. The Battle for the Golden Egg was it.

“That’s a rivalry school, you know I got recruited there, they offered me. So I had a chip on my shoulder to show them I could play corner.”

Peters could just as fairly say he needed to show everyone else. An obviously-gifted athlete and able to play immediately out of Bassfield High School in 2015, he debuted as a rotation safety. Peters even made a couple of starts when Mississippi State opened in a nickel-safety set.

Spring ’16 and much of preseason were spent still at safety, save for an April week Peters got a look at wide receiver. That was interrupted by a hand injury, which may have been a good break for the long haul. Speaking of injuries, August losses of two senior corners created demand for fast help.

Peters got the call and the move. When he intercepted South Carolina pass in week-two, his first career pick, well things looked bright, right?

Not quite.

“The South Carolina game I thought I was just going to click on, I was there to make the plays. I just wasn’t making them.” Then again neither were the rest of the rotation corners, so every weekend was practically a tryout for everyone.

Through it all though Peters stayed focused on one, one ambition. “I had a goal when I moved to corner I said to myself I want to go out there and have one of my best games at corner against Ole Miss.”

He did. Late in the first quarter he got both hands on a high Rebel pass, a bit too high to come down with. That nagged at him, and teammates still give Peters grief about it. But only because the next series, he came up big. And did it one-handed too.

Because Peters held inside position on Markell Pack as the ball came his way at the left pylon. The two were tangled and Peters couldn’t raise his right arm. “So I thank God for my length,” the 6-2 corner said. “I just tipped it, I started juggling with it and thought I was going to drop it. But I finally got a hold on it. I thought that was a difference in the game, it changed the game around.”

It did as State’s offense turned the turnover into a touchdown drive and established control. The Bulldogs won back the Golden Egg, and Peters achieved his goal to end the season on top.

“I think that was the best one,” he said.

Of course Peters has one more game to play this sophomore season. Miami-Ohio doesn’t move his rivalry meter, but the St. Petersburg Bowl is the next opportunity to prove progress as a cornerback. For that matter it will be interesting just to see who Mississippi State starts on both corners.

Peters started at Kentucky, and at Oxford (hmmm, he’ll have to wait to next September to make a home-field start). He isn’t insulted at this in-and-out existence, or the constant rotations during games. Peters understands.

“I’ll be better at some point, then I mean I’ll come in like I ain’t never played corner. I have my ups and downs.” What matters more is Peters has had enough ups to build on, and to take better advantage of bowl-camp coaching.

Yes, “You have to use your athleticism. And then you’ve got to learn technique that Coach Buck teaches. You’ve got to know inside leverage, outside leverage, head-up, you basically have to know where you’re at on the field. If you don’t you’re going to get beat every time.”

But as the Egg Bowl showed, Peters isn’t getting beat so often any more. Because as said, he is making himself comfortable out on his corner. Even if, as Peters added, it is the most challenging place to play.

Which is why he like it, in fact.

“I’ve played receiver, I’ve played safety. Corner is the hardest position on the field, I think. I mean you’re going against the best receiver every day.”

And, making them uncomfortable.


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