LSU, Nebraska stars top list of DBs, but class runs deeper

INDIANAPOLIS -- LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara met at an awards show in December, and they've been friendly rivals ever since.

Both were finalists for the Thorpe Award for best collegiate defensive back, and now they are battling to be the first cornerback taken in the NFL draft. They'll take their competition to the field when they go through drills Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Peterson, Amukamara prefer CB

LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara are considered to be the top two CBs in this year's draft, but there have been rumblings about both players switching to safety in the NFL. **More ...**

Peterson called Amukamara a "tremendous athlete."

"Me and Prince, we're definitely tight," he said Sunday. "We met up in Orlando, and we exchanged numbers. He's excited, and I'm excited, to perform, and for (the draft on) April 28."

The respect is mutual.

"Patrick Peterson is an amazing player, and whatever attention or notoriety he's getting, he deserves," Amukamara said.

Peterson and Amukamara are similar -- big 6-foot corners who had limited chances at interceptions last season as teams avoided throwing toward them. Peterson weighs 219 pounds, and Amukamara weighs 206.

A few other cornerbacks, including Colorado's Jimmy Smith and Miami's Brandon Harris, believe they should be considered among the elite at the position, too.

"There's a lot of good names out there," Peterson said. "Looks like I'm leading the class right now, but there's a lot of good guys who are definitely deserving to be No. 1."

Peterson, who won the Thorpe Award and the Bednarik Award for the nation's best defensive player, left school after his breakout junior year. He made 42 tackles, six pass breakups and four interceptions during his All-American season.

"I believe I achieved all the goals that I went to LSU for, which was to win the Jim Thorpe, the Bednarik," he said. "I wanted to make a push for the Heisman, but, unfortunately, Cam Newton won it. I just wanted to take my game to the next level, and that's to pursue an NFL career."

Peterson isn't sure if Carolina plans to make him the No. 1 overall pick.

"I hope I can be in play for the first pick," he said. "It is what it is. The Panthers have the final say so. It doesn't matter what I have to say about it. It's just truly an honor and blessing to be in this position. I'm just going to continue taking one thing at a time and waiting for April 28 and see what that day brings me."

Because of his size, he knows he might be expected to learn multiple positions.

"That's something I want to show the world -- that I can learn the scheme and understand the scheme as well," he said. "Playing if they need me to play dime, if they need me to play corner, strong safety, rover, I'm definitely down for it."

Amukamara was chosen Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by the league's head coaches. He helped the Huskers rank in the top 10 nationally in pass-efficiency defense, passing yards allowed, scoring defense and total defense. He limited opponents to just 18 pass completions in 52 attempts against him and ranked among the national leaders with 13 pass breakups. He had no interceptions, but he controlled his side of the field.

Combine top performers

Draft prospects in Indianapolis are doing their best to impress NFL teams in a variety of drills and workouts at the combine. Keep track of who stands out with some impressive numbers. **Results...**

An area of strength for Amukamara is tackling. He had 59 tackles, including 36 solo stops, last season.

"Some corners don't like to stick their nose in and get dirty a little bit," he said. "I'm one of those corners who do."

Amukamara wants to jump right in with the team that chooses him.

"That is my plan," he said. "I'm definitely not trying to redshirt in the NFL. Whatever team I play on, I'm definitely looking forward to competing for a starting spot."

Amukamara said he doesn't pattern his game after any current NFL players.

"I respect all the DBs at the next level, but there's not a particular guy I try to model my craft after," he said. "I think every player who considers themselves great should have their own identity."

The 6-2, 205-pound Smith received first-team All-Big 12 honors from the league's coaches. He had 70 tackles and five pass breakups and allowed only one touchdown in man coverage all season.

"I'm a big, athletic, physical corner," he said. "I love to press. I have great speed, great size, great ball skills. I'm a shutdown corner."

Harris, who is 5-11 and 195 pounds, calls himself a smaller corner who likes contact. He plans to prove he belongs among the top prospects during drills.

"I've watched Prince and I've watched Patrick Peterson for a while now," he said. "They're two great cornerbacks, make no mistake about it. They're great guys. A lot of us, we might not have the numbers or the physical stature of those guys, but I just think we have to come out here and show what we can do at the combine, and show people that this is not just a two-DB class. We all have skills, and we all can play."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.