By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Everything should be a little easier for Marcus Peters this week as he prepares for Saturday’s game against the Arizona Wildcats. There will be no surprises or sleepless nights for the redshirt freshman cornerback.
After a solid showing last weekend against USC in his first college start, Peters appears to have locked up starting the cornerback spot opposite Desmond Trufant for the time being.
“I don’t think that way,” said the quietly intense Peters. “But nothing will change for me.”
Last week he found out two days before the game against the Trojans that he would make his first college start. It wasn’t exactly a soft landing having to matchup against perhaps the best receiving duo in college football in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. But Peters more than held his own. He intercepted a pass, made a big tackle for loss and racked up a team-high nine tackles.
“He held his own,” Trufant said after the game. “That’s pretty good for a first start.”
Of course, it was the type of game the Huskies expected from Peters coming into this season. He was brilliant during spring practice and seemed to be the favorite to start at cornerback coming into fall camp. However, a back injury slowed him early on, he fell behind and wasn’t able to really compete for the spot.
“My coaches told me to get healthy before anything and not go out there and risk getting injured more,” Peters said. “I just tried to keep a level head.”
But it isn’t easy watching the starting spot slip away from the sidelines. “It frustrated me a lot,” Peters said. “It was kind of hard. But it’s all about the team. The best players are going to play. And I wasn’t healthy.”
So when the season opened, transfer Tre Watson was named the starter, while a finally healthy Peters would have to fight his way back into the competition.
“He never quit,” Trufant said. “He never got his head down.”
Finally healthy, Peters had to earn his playing time with limited reps in practice. He made each of them count, showing the same strength, speed and athleticism that impressed coaches in the spring.
“When you aren’t able to perform 100 percent, it’s hard to prove that you deserve the reps in a game,” defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “He’s practiced better and competed better in practice and become more consistent. He earned those reps to play.”
And now that he has the starting spot, nothing will change for Peters except for maybe sleeping a little better the night before the game.
“It won’t change the way I prepare,” he said. “I always prepared like I was going to play even when I wasn’t starting.”
Peters’ play this week will be important. Arizona has turned into one of the most prolific passing offenses in the Pac-12. The Wildcats lead the conference at 368.3 yards per game and are attempting just over 50 passes per game.
Their top two receivers Austin Hill (42 catches, 608 yards, 5 TDs) and Dan Buckner (39 catches, 513 yards, 2 TDs), both stand over 6-3 and weigh more than 200 pounds.
At 6-0, 197 pounds and blessed with ridiculously long arms, Peters plays a physical style at corner. He will bump and push and pull on receivers.
“They don’t like contact,” Peters said.
It’s not something young cornerbacks usually do.
“He came in with that physical mindset from the very beginning,” Trufant said.
Peters credits that mentality to his youth football days where he played middle linebacker.
“I think that carried over,” he said. “I like to play physical. It’s been my nature.”