Sep 2, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Brian Peavy (10) tackles Northern Iowa Panthers running back Trevor Allen (25) at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Brian Peavy took the wheel and headed south.
His spring break road trip was underway — and good friend and fellow ISU cornerback D’Andre Payne sat alongside.
Good tunes played. The weather warmed. Then talk got heated … as usual.
“We actually were arguing about my buddy, that plays at U of H (Houston), the defensive tackle, about whether he should stay or come out,” said Peavy, who considered making himself available for this month’s NFL Draft before deciding to return for his senior season. “We argued about that the whole ride home.”
There’s a method to the contentious nature of the senior corner bookends’ relationship, however.
Most disagreements arise from a burning desire to get better — as individuals, as seniors, as newly-minted leaders.
“We’re real close, but there are a lot of times where we are arguing,” Payne said. “A lot of times where we don’t agree on the same thing, but at the end of the day we know what it is and we have the same goal.”
Bluntly, that’s to “lock down” at corner. More bluntly, that’s to win.
Peavy and Payne combine to furnish the Cyclones with dual 5-9 pillars of skill and experience in a secondary that will feature two new safeties.
Both said Lawrence White — who made his first start in the Liberty Bowl — has shined this spring.
They’ve also seen impressive growth from fellow corner Arnold Azunna, Braxton Lewis and versatile senior De’Monte Ruth, among others who yearn for more playing time in the secondary.
“There’s a lot of youth in the secondary — corner and safety as well,” Payne said. “Really the only guys who have some key quality reps is Peavy, me and Ruth. Other than that, it’s a lot of young guys and they’re doing some really good things right now.”
Peavy and Payne aim to keep it that way.
Cornerbacks coach D.K. McDonald said he’s challenged them to grow as mentors while they continue to hone their respective games, and so far they’ve been progressing well in both regards.
“I think the big goal for those two this year is just to multiply themselves — to help out some of the young safeties we have and some of the young guys that we have in the room,” McDonald said. “I think that’s the big challenge. You’re excited to see what they do on the field and I think they’re going to have an even better year, hopefully, than what they had last year, but really just to pour into some of these young guys to leave a great legacy here is pretty much their main goal.”
That and production.
Peavy — the Cyclones’ third-leading tackler last season — broke up a team-best nine passes and recorded two interceptions.
Payne broke up three passes while snagging one pick.
Both burst into the backfield for six tackles for loss and remain determined to help turn ISU’s secondary into one of the best in the Big 12, if not the nation.
“We just say lock up,” Payne said. “That’s it. Just straight-up lock up. Just gotta go out there every time with that chip on your shoulder knowing that you’re the best guy on the field. The best man.”
That holds true on the field. And on road trips. And most definitely in the film room, where dissecting plays intersects with their argumentative styles.
“Just like over simple stuff, too, like, ‘Oh, you should have turned that way, or you should have turned this way,’” Peavy said. “So guys really don’t like watching film with us because we’ll stay on the play for like 30 minutes. Bad deal.”
Peavy said he’s working to keep his eyes more focused on his man and less focused on the quarterback.
He’s also taking some reps at punt returner in an effort to become more versatile.
“He’s a quick player,” McDonald said of Peavy, a first-team All-Big 12 selection by ESPN last season. “He has really good hands. He’s strong. And not having a punt returner this year, that’s an area he could really step up and help us out at.”
Payne’s looking to become a more consistent “sure” tackler while perfecting his route recognition.
“I made some key tackles in key situations and I also missed tackles in key situations,” Payne said. “Just knowing to stay consistent in that area is a big thing for me.”
Just like agreeing — and disagreeing — with Peavy.
Lock down. Smile. Never stop working.
“If he can lock his side down, I can lock my side down,” Peavy said. “That’s definitely what you look for in the secondary. He’s kind of a mirror image of me, honestly. He’s not really much different.”