STILLWATER — Kevin Peterson carried but one basic thought onto the field a year ago in his Oklahoma State debut.
“Don't mess up,” Peterson said, “that's all I was really worried about.”
Expectations have elevated for Peterson and Ashton Lampkin, who were thrown into significant action as true freshmen a year ago at the spotlight position of cornerback. Both were backups, although Peterson did make one start when Brodrick Brown was injured late in the season. Still, in the Big 12, and especially at cornerback, backups face the same public embarrassments as well-worn veterans.
The good news for the Cowboys: neither Peterson nor Lampkin suffered any long-term scars while playing in all 13 games. There were trying times and hard lessons, for sure, but mostly they emerged from a full schedule amid optimism that they'll be far better equipped to contribute, even thrive, in their second seasons.
“I'm not going to lie, it was kind of crazy,” Lampkin said of last season. “We knew we were going to play as freshmen, because they there were low numbers at DB, but as far as them throwing us right into the fire, we just had to take heed to it and learn on the run.”
Peterson, a Wagoner product who was The Oklahoman's All-State Defensive Player of the Year for 2011, finished with 20 tackles and two pass breakups, while generally being considered OSU's third cornerback.
“I had a little bit of jitters,” Peterson said, “going from high school to the Big 12 is a big jump. It was just me getting my nerves worked up. Even in high school, I used to make things out to bigger than they really were.
“I just had to settle down, get in my own skin and know that I can play with just about anybody.”
Lampkin, a Texas Football Magazine Super Team selection who starred at Arlington's Dunbar High, eventually settled in, too.
“For me, it was lovely,” said Lampkin, who posted 18 tackles and produced his first career interception. “As soon as I stepped on the field, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do. I love this.'”
With Brown now gone, Peterson and Lampkin are battling to claim the vacancy and hoping to start opposite Justin Gilbert. Either way, both will play a bunch.
And their focus will shift from not messing up to messing with enemy offenses.
“I feel like anybody after the first year is going to get progressively better,” Peterson said.
How much better?
“We should be way more comfortable,” Lampkin said. “Last year, as freshmen playing against big-time receivers, you get comfortable with it. It's like back in high school, playing around, you get more comfortable with it.
“There's no limit to how great anybody can be. The game is about knowing your craft and knowing the game and breaking down film and opponents and receivers. So there's no limit on how great I can be or how great any of us can be.”