There’s a temptation in writing about the state’s top college prospects to only focus on the “made” guys. The ones with the major SEC offers plus the players that UGA is taking a long look at.
The easy road would be the ones with the major SEC offers plus the players that UGA is taking a long look at.
But there’s also a need — maybe even a duty — to shine a light on some other guys. For whatever reason, there are some players out there that just aren’t getting the attention their talents merit.
The one who fits that criteria to me, as well as anyone in the state of Georgia right now, is unrated Harrison senior WR Steven Peterson.
To be honest, I’m even late to the party about this guy. That’s because his offer sheet lists just one major offer: Air Force.
He’s a lot better than that.
Justin Fields, the 5-star QB, wouldn’t have the highlight tape he has without Peterson. That’s a fact.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound receiver also checks off the major requirements.
- He fits the size criteria and can clock a 4.6-to-4.7 laser time in the 40-yard dash.
- Peterson has nine catches for 226 yards (25.1 yards per catch) and 4 TDs in two games.
- The senior had 67 catches for 1,118 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.
- He caught 13 of the 19 (68 percent) of the touchdowns Fields threw in 2016.
- Former NFL MVP Cam Newton hand-picked Peterson for his 7-on-7 team.
- He carries a 3.8 grade-point average at Harrison High.
- Peterson also has the well-deserved respect of the state’s top defensive backs.
He’s a young man that’s hard not to like. But with a wild and crazy side. I remember him telling me he couldn’t smile big for a photo last month because he couldn’t find his tooth. Never heard that before.
Peterson has worked on his speed training this summer.
“I was around a 4.7 at The Opening back in March, but hand-timed now I have gotten down to a 4.47,” he said.
Harrison head coach Matt Dickmann on Steven Peterson
Peterson plays a position where everyone might be a little skeptical because of his physical attributes. But then he delivers and then over delivers.
Does he deserve a “possession receiver” label? It doesn’t sound like it.
There’s also a long list of guys who jumped at the chance to go to bat for him. His head coach knows what Peterson can and cannot do better than anyone else.
His head coach knows what Peterson can and cannot do better than anyone else.
“I’ve been coaching for 31 years and I’ve been telling everybody about him,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “Who do you see as the slot receivers in the NFL? All over the place. The guys with the Patriots and with the Broncos. You see that kid right there. You see Steven. He’s that same kid. Why somebody doesn’t want to give him a Division I scholarship, I just don’t know.”
Dickmann also sees the work ethic.
“No one works harder than him,” Dickmann said. “Great competitive attitude. I feel like I’ve said all I can say. But I know if I was a college coach, that I would be having him offered to be one of my slot receivers. He can play the slot, but he can also be that outside receiver.”
What does Justin Fields see from Steven Peterson?
Fields visited Athens against this weekend. He watched the Bulldogs practice on Saturday, but he had a friend in tow. That was Peterson.
The 5-star QB and major UGA target spoke at length about his Hoya teammate this summer. Fields said then that Peterson’s game speed is way better than what he times in the 40.
Peterson played baseball with Fields on the Harrison varsity. That helped him to track a ball in flight and to understand body position.
But he’s now opted to focus on football.
Fields also stressed the hands.
“He can catch as well as anybody I’ve thrown to,” Fields said back in July. “He probably had the best hands on Cam Newton’s 7-on-7 team.”
The 5-star QB also knows his teammate is still just 16 years old. Other parents might hold back their sons a year to help with both social and athletic elements.
“He’s a great player who can be trusted when the game is on the line,” Fields said. “He’s a hard worker and is humble. I can’t believe he doesn’t have more offers.”
There’s an “everyday” quality to Peterson.
“The thing about him is he is remarkably consistent,” Fields said. “Some receivers have a good day and a bad day, but he doesn’t really ever have a bad day.”
That was evident at the spring game this year. When Peterson dropped a series of balls he got his hands on, it stunned the Hoya sideline.
Peterson caught 6 passes for 69 yards against Rome last Friday night.
How do Georgia’s top DBs feel about Peterson?
Does Peterson deserve one than one college offer? Should the mid-majors be on him by now?
I feel Chris Smith II is one of the state’s Top 2 cover corners this year. The UGA commit faced Peterson a lot on the 7-on-7 circuit.
Does he feel he deserves more than one offer?
“He definitely does,” Smith said. “He is an excellent player that is very underrated. He’s got good feet. Good ball skills. Nice speed. He’s an all-around go-getter that is not afraid of competition.”
Quindarious Monday, a 4-star Auburn safety commit, played with Peterson on Newton’s 7-on-7 squad.
What does he think Peterson can do?
“He is a Dawg,” Monday said. “He is one of the best receivers in 2018 hands down. He’s got great route running and average speed but he is a great player. Man, I love Steven. He is not afraid to be physical. He is hands down one of the best receivers I have ever faced.”
Trey Dean, another 4-star safety who is committed to Tennessee, also chimed in. It is pretty hard to get a future Vol to see eye-to-eye with future rivals at Auburn and UGA, but that is the case here.
“He is a possession receiver but one that also has the ability to make big plays at times,” Dean said.
What I see with Steven Peterson
Peterson has ball skills. He can go up and get any ball thrown his way. He pairs great body control with superior ball recognition when it is in the air. That’s a great combo.
He’s also not going to back down from a physical defensive back. There’s also a line that Chris Smith used to break down Peterson that bears repeating. Smith said he sees that Peterson is “not afraid of competition” at any level.
That’s very clear.
“I’ve played against all the best dudes,” Peterson said. “Guys like Telly Plummer and Quindarious Monday in practice. Then guys like Trey Dean in the 7-on-7s. They respect me. When I go against them, they are working and I am working. We are going hard. I feel like I can match up against those guys.”
Peterson grew up an LSU fan. He’d love to play for the Tigers. His dream school is North Carolina. He said that he is farther down the board for the Tar Heels.
“If they don’t get this guy or that guy, then they said I would probably come after that,” Peterson said.
It is understandable why the big Power 5 conferences have the guys they want. But this is the part where schools like Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Furman, Georgia Southern, Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB and others seem like more of an option.
He knows the constant attention that will be paid to Fields can only help his cause.
“Everyone will be watching him so they can see whether they get him and also see what he does or not,” Peterson said. “Hopefully, I can have a game in front of them and the right person can see me. I can show them what I can do. Maybe they will be interested.”
Why Cam Newton believed in Steven Peterson
How did Peterson wind up playing for Cam Newton’s team this year? There’s a story there.
“Justin kind of got me in there for my first opportunity,” Peterson said.
But the rest was all on him.
“The second try-out Cam was calling people out,” Peterson said. “He picked the best receivers and the best defensive backs for that he picked me.”
Newton noticed Peterson had some Nike gloves on with sparkles all over them.
“Hey gloves,” Newton said. “Come here.”
“Me?” Peterson said.
“Yes, get your (tail) out there,” Newton told him.
“I ran a post and Justin threw it and it went over my back shoulder,” Peterson said.
It wasn’t right on him, but Peterson adjusted in mid-air. Major contortionist stuff.
“Cam just freaked out running down the field,” Peterson said. “He jumped up. Did the shoulder bump. From there, it kind of escalated. Once we made the team, I think they liked it. There were two white kids on the team. One of them was the other quarterback. The other one was me.”
Those guys called him everything from “Stevie J” to “Jordan Nelson” to the “coldest white boy on the field” among that squad.
“The first tournament I really showed out,” Peterson said. “I think I earned my respect from then on.”
He can thank Fields for all of that.
“I probably wouldn’t have tried out for that 7-on-7 team if Justin didn’t say come on and let’s go,” Peterson said.