DO- Peterson's work ethic evident early

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okstate5968

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#1
Peterson’s work ethic was evident early

By Mike Baldwin
The Oklahoman

STILLWATER - Defensive coordinator Bill Clay reached across the desk, grabbed a piece of paper and drew a circle. Clay repeatedly tapped his pen inside the circle to drive home his point.
OSU at Colorado

2:30 P.M. SATURDAY

# Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.

# KOCO-5 (Cox 8)

# KXXY-FM 96.1

“When I look at guys who are in the circle, if I’m going into battle, who could I count on?” Clay said. “Nathan Peterson is in the circle. He’s a fighter. He will get after you. He is somebody we can depend on, someone who will get better and better every snap.”

Clay made that declaration last week, days before Peterson made a strong impression in his first career start. In Oklahoma State’s win over Iowa State in the Big 12 opener, Peterson, a true freshman defensive end, recorded seven tackles, three sacks and four tackles for losses.

Peterson’s work ethic and determination to improve were first evident when he enrolled early in January. While his Tulsa Union classmates were finishing their senior year of high school, Peterson participated in spring drills.

“That helped him get acclimated to the speed of the college game,” defensive line coach Carey Bailey said. “Then he had an opportunity the first three games to play and shore up his technique. The thing that sets Nate apart is he has the full grasp of what we do defensively.”

Peterson said the biggest benefits to starting his career early was he took 16 hours of classes in the spring. On the field, he got a jump start learning OSU’s defense of four defensive linemen and a pair of linebackers. Off the field, he became acclimated to college life.

“I didn’t want to have a big slap in the face when I showed up here for two-a-days,” Peterson said. “That’s something I wanted to hone in on and get in the groove. You’re missing out on a lot of memories. But this is something I’ve worked for my entire life. I wanted to take every advantage to be the best that I could.

“Coming in early is something that definitely contributed to some of my success (Saturday). But it’s one of those deals no matter how early I came in, I wasn’t going to get better until I got some action in games.”

Peterson played several snaps in the opener at UCLA. He was part of the defensive end rotation in non-conference play. But Peterson improved so much, especially during OSU’s off week, coaches felt he earned the opportunity to start against Iowa State.

“The more I play the more comfortable I get,” Peterson said. “(Saturday) I found myself in a good comfort zone. The other guys are getting that, too. Maurice (Cummings) and Darnell (Smith). Marque (Fountain) played a lot last year. We’re all getting there. I think we’re going to get better the rest of the season.”

How OSU’s young defensive line develops is one of the critical variables for the Cowboys. Because so much focus was placed on Fountain and young defensive tackles Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, Brad Girtman and Walter Thomas, Peterson was rarely mentioned.

But four games into the season, Peterson has been the most productive. Peterson leads the Cowboys in sacks (three), tackles for losses (five) and is tied with Fountain for most tackles (11) among defensive linemen.

“That kid has a ton of potential,” senior defensive tackle Clay Coe said. “It’s really great to see him succeed after watching him put all the hard work in.”

Compared to some defensive ends, Peterson is undersized at 250 pounds. Coaches and teammates say his work compensates for that.

“He comes to practice every day and brings his lunch bucket,” Bailey said. “You know he’s going to give you everything he has. That showed last Saturday. The way he played is the way he practices. He’s an effort guy. He was like that in high school. That’s why the blue collar moniker has stuck with him.”