Pegues Looking to be a Triple Threat

Whenever the football was in his hands, good things usually followed. Starting this spring, Mississippi State junior Derek Pegues is looking for more opportunities to tote the pigskin. And no, he's not talking of a move to tailback, but his switch from cornerback to strong safety.

"There will be more opportunities for me to get my hands on the ball now," said Pegues. "I can step over the top when the ball goes deep and that's really the main reason Coach Croom moved me to safety, wanting me to get the ball in my hands more and it will all work out fine."

Last year, Pegues had his moments at cornerback and shined even brighter in the return game, earning second-team All-SEC honors at both positions.

Pegues returned a pair of interceptions back for scores - versus Jacksonville State and at LSU - and in that same Jacksonville State homecoming affair, took back a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.

In the secondary, Pegues started all 12 games at corner and picked off a team-best four passes, which ranked eighth in the Southeastern Conference. But Pegues wants to add another notch to his impressive special teams' resume.

A kickoff return for a score. It's something that has eluded Pegues despite retuning 56 career kicks for 1,246 yards, which is already fifth-best in school history.

As a freshman, Pegues came close to returning a kickoff back, sprinting 51 yards on the road at Auburn before being driven out-of-bounds.

And early last fall, Pegues came even closer against Tulane, this time returning a kickoff 61 yards before being dragged down.

"This year I am going to try to be the triple threat," said Pegues. "I want a touchdown on an interception, kickoff and punt returns. I want to have a big year and I have a lot of personal goals I have set for myself. If I play within the scheme, I can reach all those goals and make my team better."

And so far, so good as far as spring drills are concerned.

Pegues has accepted the move with high anticipation and sees the obvious similarities at strong safety and corner.

"Really, I feel very comfortable out there so far, "said Pegues. "Making the move from cornerback, we did a lot of things that safeties already do. It wasn't as big of a jump for me as some might think.

"I felt real good the first (few) days of spring. I made a couple of plays out there. It was definitely the best move for me because I can make plays on the ball and get the ball in my hands more."

Pegues anticipates another stat to rise this year, his tackles.

During his first two seasons, Pegues collected 46 tackles with 32 coming last year, a number that include one tackle for loss.

But Pegues expects to be hanging around the line of scrimmage a bit more in the fall.

"The biggest adjustment is just getting more physical," said Pegues. "Playing corner, it's a lot more work because you are playing man-to-man and (you are) out there on an island.

"Now I just have to help my buddies out. I have to get more physical, come down the line and make more tackles. Everything else is second nature. I like to get my hands on the ball and make big plays."

But Pegues knows his dual role wont come without a price.

A normal practice session has Pegues spending time on first-team defense and critiquing his move to safety and with the special teams.

"It will go about the same," said Pegues of his practice routine at safety and with return teams. "But I have to pick myself up and practice even harder this year because I know I only have two more years. My personal goals are to make it to the league and first of all, make my team better.

"I am going to take it to heart, at safety and in the return game. I can help the team in a lot of ways and I have to be prepared in all those ways."

As Pegues steps into his other new role as leader, he likes what he sees in the early stages of spring practice.

He expresses the confidence in an offense with almost everybody back, with weapons on the ground and through the air.

And Pegues remarks of how the offense will carry its load, something unseen in Croom's previous three seasons at the helm. More importantly, he loves the energy on the field.

"This is definitely the best attitude and most spirit I've seen out here since I've been here," said Pegues. "As a team as a whole, we know what is expected out of us. We have a lot of players coming back on offense and they can carry the team.

"The defense has to pick it up in a couple of areas, step up and make plays. There are some guys back on defense, including myself, that have to become leaders this year and show the way. We have to pick up our part of the deal when the fall comes, keeping up with our offense."

In Pegues' mind, it seems like yesterday that he was making the difficult choice of where to attend college.

He came to college with high expectations, and started to deliver almost instantly.

And at the blink of an eye, Pegues is getting ready for his junior season in the maroon and white.

"It's so hard to believe I am a junior and me and Fitz (Keith Fitzhugh) were just talking about that the other day," said Pegues. "We have already been here two years and we feel we have to make money this year and get our names out there. You have to do that if you want to make it to the league in a couple of years."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

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