Derek Pegues

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 30, 2008

Top cornerback Pegues prepares for senior season

By Angie Ledbetter

He’s a big part of the Mississippi State Bull Dog football team.

Derek Pegues, a defensive back and kickoff and punt returner will start his senior year when the Bull Dogs open on August 30.

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Due to missing too many classes this summer, Pegues will not play the first game.

As a two-time All-SEC performer, Pegues has been a crucial piece of State’s defense, one of the nation’s most improved in 2007. He has been predicted to be one of college football’s best defensive backs in 2008 and one of the top cornerback prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft.

Pegues was named to the 2008 SEC Coaches Preseason All-SEC First Team on defense and was only one of three players in the conference named as a repeat from 2007. He was also named to a 40 member initial watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award which is presented to the nation’s top defensive back at the ESPN College Football Award Show in December.

Starting his senior year with 10 career interceptions, he is tied for fifth all time in school history and just six shy of Walt Harris’ school record. His three interception returns for touchdowns have already set a new school standard and his interception returns for 216 yards is the second most ever by a Bulldog.

On his kick returns, he is just 525 yards shy of setting the SEC record and is in sixth place for combined return yardage, kick returns for 1,790 and punt returns for 620.

Last season he started all 13 games at free safety, recording 50 tackles, deflected seven passes and topped it off with five interceptions. His 20 yard interception return for a touchdown against Auburn made the difference in that game, which State won.

Pegues also started all 13 games as a kick and punt returner, returning 24 kickoffs for an average of 22.7 yards including a long 51 yard. His 27 punt returns averaged 9.9 yards including a 75 yard one which resulted in a touchdown that tied the 2007 Egg Bowl in the fourth quarter, giving MSU a chance to kick a last second field goal and win the game.

In 2007 he was voted to the All-SEC first team by the Associated Press and second team by the SEC coaches.

In the 2007 AutoZone Liberty bowl game, Pegues intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards to the University of Central Florida’s 6 yard line, setting up a field goal to tie the game in the second quarter. He intercepted a second pass that helped his team win 10-3. Pegues was named Most Valuable Player.

Pegues talked about summer and fall practice.

“I think it has gone really well. A lot of the guys have come out very excited and I think that’s because we’re coming off a winning season. We’re ready to get back to it. Practice has gone good and a lot of young guys have come out there and made some plays. We have a lot of leadership on the team and we know what it takes to get to the SEC championship. We’ve been going out there every day working hard and hoping to get better.”

Being a senior makes Pegues feel old.

“It came so fast. Now I have to step up and be a leader on this team not just on the field but off the field and vocally too.”

He talked about his relationship with Jamarca Sanford and Peria Jerry of Ole Miss.

“They are my boys and we call each at least once or twice a week to talk.  When we play each other it’s a big rivalry and it makes it even better because I played with them in high school. Every time I catch the ball, Jamarca tries to kill me out there. It’s fun and we love to compete against each other.

“When it comes time to play each other, we call each other and talk a little smack and then talk a little smack before the game,” Pegues continued.

He hopes when State plays Ole Miss, the Rebels can have one of their worst games.

“It being our senior year, we talk about our future plans but we’re all trying to go out and have a great year this season.”

Pegues’ expectations are to win the SEC Championship and go to a BCS Bowl game.

“Anything else I don’t want to accept.”

After winning the Liberty Bowl MVP, Pegues does not feel pressured.

“I feel that it puts more pressure on the coaches than the players. The coaches put me in great position to make plays and the players around me. I just go out there and try to make as many plays as possible every game and try to help the team win.

As far as his plans after this year, Pegues is not thinking about any personal goals right now.  

“I’m just concentrating on this year. I want to make the plays that I missed last year and get better and help MSU be better. It’s all about MSU right now.”

Head Coach Sylvester Croom said Pegues is a very good football player.

“He’s real smart and has a great vision,” Croom said. “He’s a playmaker, has great confidence in himself, understands the game and an intense competitor. On the field you have no problem with him but off the field, he can get distracted at times. When he is focused, there aren’t many better than him. I’m looking forward to a big year out of him this year.”