By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Kevin Peterson laughed at the question. It caught him a little off guard.
Had there never been a Hurricane Rita, would his Media Day activity on Saturday been in a place like Baton Rouge, La., where the closest thing to Oklahoma State would have been a former head coach of the Cowboys?
“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said by phone at Oklahoma State's Media Day on Saturday.
Peterson was in Lake Charles, La., where his dad, Kevin Sr., worked for three years until Rita’s wrath in 2005 forced the family north to Wagoner, where his mother Kimberly grew up. Peterson himself was born in Muskogee.
Plus, the family’s Oklahoma roots and a diehard Sooner fan for a grandfather were there to balance any influence of LSU enthusiasts.
So Peterson did the natural thing – he signed with ... Oklahoma State. That adjustment, and the general adjustment to college football his freshman season kept his agenda full a year ago.
“Bedlam, you know, I tried not to think about all that,” he said. “It was a big game to get ready for. My family, my grandpa especially were OU fans and a lot of people back in Wagoner were. I heard from them all through recruiting.”
Peterson “just felt comfortable” when OSU moved into the picture after his initial commitment to the Sooners, and after a year at cornerback, the spearhead of Wagoner High’s drive to a 2011 state championship who doubled then as a standout running back is not only settling into Stillwater, but he’s projected to be a starter in a group that returns seven starters.
“Coming from Wagoner, Oklahoma, the game obviously speeds up and everyone’s bigger, stronger and faster,” he said. “You know that going in, but actually seeing it is an eye opener.
“I had some jitters. But finding a way on the field with those kind of athletes helped give me confidence and I’d say over a year that’s been the biggest change in myself.”
Peterson was the third guy behind Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown a year ago and gave them occasional breaks. He appeared in all 13 games, starting one, and led all of the 2012 recruiting class with 20 tackles. He also had two pass breakups.
OSU coach Mike Gundy pointed to Peterson as one who will benefit from that experience.
“It’s really scary to have a true freshman out there on the edge. “(He has) developed well, but (still has) to learn to mature and play hard all the time. That is normally the last thing for a guy to learn and how to compete on every play,” Gundy said at media day.
Peterson, now 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, said his confidence will lead to more aggressive play and specifically, a focus on playing closer to the receiver.
“On my end, that’s definitely something that’s come with being confident. It’s my nature to be aggressive,” he said. “With all the veterans we have, being on the same page with them will make me better.”
Gilbert, a consensus preseason All-Big 12 pick, will line up at the other corner with seniors Shamiel Gary and Daytawion Lowe at the safety spots. All three started a year ago.
While the Big 12 doesn’t lack in high-powered offenses that challenge defenses by taking dead aim at the cornerbacks, Peterson thinks the best preparation comes in practice.
“We go against the best receivers in the Big 12 every day,” he said. “If you can hang with them you should have confidence in yourself.”