OSU's Poyer gives up baseball to learn cornerback

2010-04-11T18:45:00Z OSU's Poyer gives up baseball to learn cornerbackBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

Jordan Poyer made a life-altering decision during the winter.

After some inner turmoil about what to do, there was one early morning when he couldn't sleep. So he called his father and they talked about his options for 45 minutes.

Then he went to tell the Oregon State football coaches the verdict, and they were thrilled. The hard part was sharing the news with the baseball coaches.

Poyer had been a two-sport star growing up and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 42nd round out of Astoria High. He loves playing both spots, but decided to give up baseball to concentrate on football.

"They understood, but at the same time they were pretty disappointed with my decision," Poyer said of the baseball coaches. "I felt I had to be out here in the spring. My scholarship is for football, and I felt I owed it to the guys and coaches to be here."

Poyer originally planned to play both sports at OSU. Doing baseball, however, would keep him out of spring practice.

After changing from safety to cornerback during bowl practice in December, Poyer couldn't afford to be away from the football team.

"It was a hard decision for me," Poyer said. "It's still in the back of my mind. Basically, I wanted to be here in the spring. I needed to learn. The fall wouldn't be enough for me."

He's penciled in to be the No. 3 cornerback behind starters James Dockery and Brandon Hardin. The position is loaded, but with players who have less experience than him.

Poyer practices behind Dockery most of the time. Dockery started out as a safety at OSU and moved to corner. So he's a wealth of information.

"I work with Jordan all the time," Dockery said. "The transition to corner is how fast you adapt and when you are comfortable. Jordan is doing a really good job picking up the system. Normally, it takes a whole fall camp and a lot of reps to pick it up."

Poyer played mostly on special teams as a true freshman. He made an impact as a gunner on the kickoff and punt teams, and was an explosive part-time kickoff return man.

When starting cornerback Tim Clark suffered a broken leg in the Civil War, the Beavers were thin at that position. At the same time they were deep at safety.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker suggested the move to Poyer one weight lifting session, and Poyer jumped at it when he saw there was an opportunity to play sooner.

"He's a natural athlete who is smart," cornerback coach Keith Heyward said. "He can pick up the scheme and play out there. It's just a matter of him developing the technique and being patient. It's totally different playing safety than corner."

Poyer first played cornerback with the USA junior national team in an international tournament last summer. He was a safety and quarterback at Astoria.

How to cover one-on-one as aggressively as OSU does is new to him. And the defensive perspective of being alone in coverage can be daunting. So far it has been enjoyable.

Of course, Poyer has yet to take on a high-end Pacific-10 Conference receiver.

"I'm still learning a lot, even from the younger guys," Poyer said. "I feel it's going to be a good transition for me. It gives me a chance to be more athletic."

His success has been hit-and-miss during spring practice. Poyer has wowed spectators, while at other times his inexperience shows.

Heyward's plan is to drill him hard enough and long enough that Poyer reacts like it is second-nature.

"You just have to play," Poyer said. "You can't think. I caught myself thinking a lot (one practice), and I struggled a lot. I just played (the next one), and I did exceptionally well. I know you are not going to win 10 out of 10 times, but that's the goal."

At least he gave himself the best chance to succeed with plenty of time to work on it before the season without baseball conflicts.

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