The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 23, 2010

Peterson draws rave reviews from WVU

MORGANTOWN — If you listen to the talk going on around the Puskar Center on Tuesday, when West Virginia University coaches and players are available to talk about this week’s upcoming showdown against No. 14 LSU in Baton Rouge, you would think that they are going against a player in Patrick Peterson who hits like Dick Butkus, runs like Usain Bolt and has hands like Jerry Rice.

From the sounds of it, this LSU cornerback ought to skip the NFL and just go straight to Canton, Ohio.

He sounds so good that you expect LSU to assign him to cover Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin … at the same time.

Listen in on some of the things that were said:

• “This guy’s up for the Heisman and he should be. He’s the best DB in the country.” – WVU coach Bill Stewart.

• “He’s as good as I’ve ever seen.” – WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen.

• “He’s one of the best players in the nation.” – WVU wide receiver Stedman Bailey.

All of this leads us to ask this about Patrick Peterson … how come when he and his Blanche Ely High teammates in Florida played against Miramar in his senior season they got passed right out of the joint?

And, in case you haven’t guessed, the quarterback that day was a junior named Geno Smith, throwing to a sophomore named Stedman Bailey.

Yep, that would be the same Smith and Bailey who will be testing him on Saturday night before an ESPN2 national television audience and sold out Tiger Stadium.

Ask Bailey how his team did that night and this is what you get:

“I had like four catches for … hmmm … like 150 yards and three touchdowns.”

And ask Smith and he gives you the politically correct answer, saying he doesn’t want to give LSU any “bulletin board material” but …

“You can ask him about it. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to talk about it. We won the game. That’s about it.”

This is not to say that the scouting reports are wrong or the praise is misplaced. See, Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach is one of the premiere high school programs in the country. Back in 2003 it had six active graduates in the NFL, more than any other high school.

But Peterson isn’t the only graduate of Ely who will be on the field for this game.

J.T. Thomas will also be out there playing linebacker for West Virginia. He remembers the kid who was a couple of years behind him in high school and what he saw in him.

“He was a younger guy when I was there,” Thomas said. “He was able to help us, but I didn’t know he was going to turn out to be one of the top NFL draft picks.

  “One thing I remember about him, one day after practice he was doing one-on-one with our best cornerback, Josh Moore, who is now in the NFL. They were after each other like two rabid dogs. They’d switch offense and defense and our star quarterback was throwing the ball and they were like two dogs chasing each other.

“I knew from watching that day, I said, ‘Man, he’s going to be a player.’ He was as big as he is now back in 10th grade, and I knew he’d only get better and better.”

He’s gotten so good that much of LSU’s defense is built around him. See, if he can shut down the top receiver, as he has done so often, it allows LSU to crowd the line of scrimmage with more players, cutting off running lanes and setting up certain blitzes that they couldn’t use if they had to play zone or do some double-teaming in the secondary.

“He’s the kind of guy that when he’s on the field, he just multiplies your opportunities in defending and getting turnovers. There’s just a little bit more excitement on that side of the field,” LSU coach Les Miles said during his Tuesday press conference.

“When you watch tape on him, he’s always on their best guy. You look and he’s left side, right side, down the middle,” Mullen said. “You look at that tape from last year he was on Julio Jones from Alabama and the Green kid from Georgia. It’ll be interesting to see who they want to cover with our two guys in the slot.”

Those two guys would be leading receivers Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders. On the surface you’d think he would go after Austin, who seems to be the most dangerous for breaking long runs, but Austin thinks most of the time Peterson will go the other way.

“I think he’ll be on Jock because he’s more experienced,” he said.

When asked if that would bother him, he laughed and admitted, “No, not at all.”

Having a defender like Peterson creates a situation for the offense that is quite challenging. You have to decide if you want to go away from him with your passing game, thereby cutting much of the field out of the offense, or if you have to challenge him to keep him honest and make the defense defend the whole field.

“He’s not the only good player we’ll face this year,” said Smith, the quarterback. “We’ve faced some great players already, and we’ll face many more down the line. We have great players here, and if we just go after them the way we do we’ll be fine.

“I’m just going out and leading my team as I do every week. It’s not a grudge against him. I understand he’s one of the best players in the country, but we’re not going to shy away from him. We will do what we do every week.”

“He’s a great player, but we’re not scared of him,” Bailey said. “It would nice to go at him and make some plays on him.”

Bailey admits that the Mountaineers have added some plays this week based of what they have seen on film of Peterson, things to confuse him, but in the end it comes down to doing what you do best.

“I’ve just got to go out and play my game,” Bailey said. “You can’t be scared of him or be intimidated. He puts his pants on just like I do.”

Certainly, though, the quarterback must be aware of where Peterson is at all times.

“Our quarterbacks shouldn’t look at our players. They should look at the opposing player and throw where he isn’t,” Stewart said, giving an insightful explanation of how a quarterback avoids mistakes, even if he did at times sound like Casey Stengel at his double-talking best.

“You don’t want to throw where our guy is, because you’re not watching the defensive guy if you do that,” Stewart continued. “You better know where No. 7 (Peterson) is. Just like when people play us, they want to know where our guys are. People play us, I’ll bet they make sure they know where 22 (Brandon Hogan) and 8 (Keith Tandy) are. And I know if I was playing against us, I’d be sure to know where that big No. 2 (Robert Sands) is.”

It would be nice if Peterson’s only contributions came on defense, but he also is one of the nation’s most dangerous kick returners and figures to test WVU’s new and improved kick coverage.

“He is tremendous,” Stewart said. “He is averaging 31.7 yards on kickoff returns, with a long of 47 yards, so that means he’s getting out there pretty good. His punt returns average 23.9. Imagine that! You know how many yards a game that is? He is great.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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