Jamal Peters (Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page)

Gifted Dog Working for Starting Cornerback Job but Also Likes Idea of Offense

He claims it is just for fun, when Jamal Peters asks for some turns on offense. “I might joke around with Coach G and Coach Mullen hey, I want to catch the ball.”

Receivers coach Gonzales and the head coach aren’t unsympathetic. Or surprised this Bulldog defensive back hankers for two-way play. They will simply remind Peters he should get chances to catch balls this fall.

Balls thrown by the other team, at the receiver Peters best be covering. He’s entirely free to go get that one, right?

“Yeah,” Peters smiles. “But that’s hard. At corner you probably get one out of 15 in a game.” True enough. Yet doesn’t that make getting hands on a pass more meaningful than most wide receiver grabs?

“When you get a pick, yeah. It’s big-time.”

Peters has picked up some big-time expectations for this coming junior year. After a season spent switching from safety he ought be settled as a cornerback. “I’m way comfortable at it. I love it.

“I mean, I think it should be my permanent position. I’m already used to it, so I just think I should stay there.”

Notice the lingering uncertain hints: think, should. He doesn’t say know, shall? Well, this is as much due to Peters’ undoubted talents in a variety of roles. He began his Mississippi State career as a rotation safety after all and still looks the part.

Peters also had a short 2016 spring stint at receiver before cracking a hand. By August he was holding down a corner. And in November it was Peters coming up, make that down with the turning-point play of the Egg Bowl.

He’s no finished product by any means. But the progress shows and Peters has learned to like the challenge of this job.

“I’ve played receiver, I’ve played safety. Corner is the hardest position on the field, I think.”

Thing is, at times Peters makes it look easy. Or at a few times anyway. Peters is utterly honest about his own uneven performance over the past season. “I’ll get better at some point. Then I mean I’ll come in like I ain’t never played corner. I have my ups and downs.

“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. The Ole Miss game, I’m like too confident.”

Well, yeah, with what Peters did that evening in Oxford the confidence was justified. Mississippi State had just stretched a surprising second-quarter lead to 20-10 but the Rebels were driving again and a shootout was shaping up.

Until, on first down at the Bulldog 17-yard line, the pass was fired to Peters’ (left field) side. Bad choice. Peters was already frustrated at a first-quarter drop and had something to prove as he muscled for inside position on the receiver into the end zone. Literally muscle, too, because Peters’ right arm was locked with the receiver.

“So I thank God for my length. I just tipped it, I started juggling with finally got a hold on it. I thought that was a difference in the game, it changed the game around.”

It did. The Dogs quickly scored and while there was another clutch defensive stop in the third quarter—by LB Leo Lewis on fourth down—the game had been changed. Mississippi State roared away to a 55-20 final and bowl game after all.

There Peters broke up a pass, forced a fumble, and had three tackles. He didn’t start the St. Petersburg Bowl but played well enough that going into spring Peters had to be rated a leader for a 2017 starting job. Only rated, since new coordinator Todd Grantham and corners coach Terrell Buckley refused to set any depth chart or play favorites.

Fine by Peters. It kept the competition going all spring and now on into summer. Not that the corners will be competing directly of course. Just that every ‘voluntary’ workout opportunity will be another chance to make themselves better and maybe get a little edge by August.

The third August for Peters, too. Since he didn’t redshirt but was thrown onto the field in ’15, Peters is already half-way into his Bulldog football career.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I feel like I just got here!”

Well, in a sense he has only just got ‘here’ as a college cornerback. Now if Peters will fully focus on this job…

Right. Good luck with that. “Ain’t nobody playing both sides of the ball in the SEC,” he said. “So, why not?”

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