Peters getting comfy at corner for Bulldogs

Jamal Peters
Staff Writer

Ask and you shall receive, or in Jamal Peters’ case, ask and you shall move to corner.
The Mississippi State defensive back has the athleticism to play all over the football field for the Bulldogs. He started his career at safety in 2015 and even saw some action at receiver in the spring of 2016.
Yet when injuries depleted MSU’s depth at cornerback last fall, Peters jokingly had a request. The Bulldogs’ coaching staff didn’t see any humor in the question.
“When I saw we needed a corner, I went to (MSU cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley) and, I was just playing, but I said, ‘Coach, I want to play corner,’” Peters recalled. “Then, probably two days later, they said they were putting me at corner.”
As Peters gets ready to enter his junior season this fall, cornerback has become his new home. That’s where the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Bassfield native will be when MSU opens its season in September.
It’s a spot even Peters himself says he couldn’t have imagined he’d be in when he first got to Starkville a couple of years ago. Yet here he is, entering his second season at corner after converting from his familiar safety spot, ready to make life miserable for receivers and quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference.
Buckley is the man charged with making sure Peters can handle the challenge and so far, so good says the 14-year NFL veteran and former Super Bowl champion, even though the learning curve Peters faces is steep.
“You are talking about a young man that has never played corner,” Buckley said of Peters. “I am teaching him on the run against the top competition in the country. He is big and dealing with shifty guys and learning all this stuff that takes a year or two to learn.”
Buckley compares Peters to a former standout that Buckley had the opportunity to coach at Florida State.
Xavier Rhodes, now a cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings, came to FSU in 2009 as a wide receiver. Just two games into the 2009 season, Rhodes was injured, causing him to miss the season. He received a medical redshirt and used the time away from the field to master the cornerback position. Rhodes ultimately became a first-round NFL Draft pick.
Even for a talent like Rhodes, Buckley remembered it took time to develop.
“It took (Rhodes) six months to lean the angles, the proper steps, how to finish on the deep ball and which way to turn,” Buckley recalled.
Peters has already shown flashes he’s figuring things out as well. Perhaps his most memorable play of a year ago came in the Egg Bowl. Early in the second quarter, Peters pulled off an acrobatic interception where he tipped the ball away from Ole Miss receiver Quincy Adeboyejo in the end zone, juggled it, then caught it in bounds. State led the game 20-10 at that moment. Sparked by the turnover, the Bulldogs went on to add another touchdown on the ensuing drive before going on to blow out the Rebels 55-20.
The confidence gained from that play still rests in Peters’ mind.
“When I got that pick against Ole Miss, that’s a big game against a rival, and my mind all week was locked in that I had to get a pick,” Peters said. “After I got that pick, I was so comfortable with everything. That’s carried over and now I’m comfortable with everything I do. If I make a big play, people aren’t used to it yet, but they’ll get used to it.”
With more time at the position and his comfort level rising, Peters’ stock is also on the rise. There is little doubt about that. However Buckley says there is still a long way for Peters to go.
“For me, he’s not close to where he needs to be,” Buckley said. “I want more out of him and he will tell you.”
At least now it appears Peters can settle in and make the improvements Buckley demands. After multiple positions, it seems Peters has landed at his final destination. That is, at least until he makes another request.
“I think I’m a full-time corner now, but I still think about receiver,” Peters said. “I might joke around with (wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales) and (head coach Dan Mullen) because I might want to catch the ball every now and then.
“I can play both really. Nobody else is playing both in the SEC. Why can’t I do it?”
You never know. If Peters asks, he just might receive yet again.