Spring Football: Peterson Leads Secondary

STILLWATER - It was back to it Monday afternoon for the Oklahoma State Cowboys in spring football. The beach, home cooking and the rest and relaxation was over with. Of course, spring break started a little earlier than scheduled when the Friday practice that was scheduled was postponed because of a shortage of healthy linebackers until the end of the spring football calendar on April 11.

Everybody had a chance to get healthy over the break but this team will be subject to shortages at various positions through the rest of the spring just due to losing the 28 seniors from last season and a few players sitting out due to offseason surgery and rehab concerns.

"Really, I thought we had a good practice. There's always concern with spring break, kind of the lull after getting back, for coaches and players," OSU head coach Mike Gundy said.

"I thought our coaches did a great job of getting them motivated. We didn't have pads on. Today was our third practice without pads. There was a lot of learning. Guys paid attention and I thought we got better as a team today," Gundy added.

The defensive staff with coordinator Glenn Spencer, cornerbacks coach Van Malone and safeties coach Tim Duffie do have all their numbers in the secondary. But the Cowboys are really young, although they do have a returning starting cornerback that may be one of the best cover corners in college football.

I was told by more than one Big 12 assistant coach during the 2013 season that they intentionally did not want to throw Kevin Peterson's way. Of course, that left teams throwing at future first-round NFL Draft pick Justin Gilbert, and Gilbert finished with seven interceptions to show for it.

"I kind of noticed that at the end of the season," Peterson said when his cover skills and reputation were brought up. "I went back and watched film and I was like, Wow man! They didn't come at me as much as I thought because I thought with Justin (Gilbert) being over there I would get every pass over there.

"I think it is just humbling that hard work pays off, and Justin is going to be a top-10 draft pick and I didn't get that many balls thrown on my side. That is a testimony to my work ethic and to the way coach (Van) Malone coaches us and his overall game plan."

Peterson had 24 tackles and six pass break ups to go along with two interceptions on the season. If you go back and dissect the season, he was targeted less than any spot in the secondary.

He pays tribute to Gilbert. Peterson watched as Gilbert went from being the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP in the win over quarterback Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal as a sophomore to being a disappointment in his junior season to coming back for his senior season and earning All-American status and being a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. Peterson eyeballed his lessons.

"I learned a lot," Peterson answered. "Justin doesn't talk a whole lot and say he does this or does that. He just does his work and goes about his day. He is so polished with his technique and being able to see him makes me a better player."

Like Gilbert, Peterson has a lot of speed. As a track athlete in high school, Peterson was a state champion in the 100 (10.86 seconds) and 200 (22.21) meters. His speed and his aggressive attitude is part of his makeup as a player, but he is also a friendly guy, friends with everyone he likes to say, and that will help in his newest role of being a leader.

"I know that I'm one of the oldest guys back there and I'm only going to be a junior and I need to step up and be a leader," Peterson said. "I need to help those guys with the same lessons and instill in those young guys what I had instilled in me when I came here.

"If you are going to play early they are going to come after you and go right at you. You will have to step up because when game time comes you will have to play. Taking those leadership roles will be one of my biggest responsibilities this spring."


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