Poyer mellow off the field, dangerous on it

If you're looking for a night out on the town, Jordan Poyer probably isn't your best option as wingman.

Consider, Oregon State was on spring break last week.

"So, Jordan, what did you do for spring break?"

"Nothing really. Just stayed around here. Hung out. Worked out."

"No Mexico? No Miami Beach? No spring break blowout?"

"Nah, no Mexico. But I did go to a water park one day with my girlfriend."

Talk to Poyer's head coach and he'll tell you that's exactly the response you'd expect.

"He's a true gym rat," coach Mike Riley said . "He's a very unique guy."

He's also one of the top cornerbacks in the Pac-12 and, with another solid season, should find himself playing on Sundays in 2013.

Poyer and the rest of the Beavers start spring camp Tuesday. For Poyer, it's the final spring session of his college career, and it's already starting to sink in.

"It's almost surreal that this is my last one," he said. "But I'm here to enjoy every moment of it."

After an outstanding junior season that saw him earn second-team all-conference honors, Poyer is poised for a solid senior campaign. And it starts Tuesday.

"I want to do something that makes me a better player every day," Poyer said.

Another typical response. When Riley first identified Poyer as a sophomore in high school, the coach never imagined Poyer would blossom into the lockdown cornerback he is today. In fact, Riley was on the fence about even offering him a scholarship despite Poyer being Oregon's offensive and defensive player of the year.

"I'd like to say I knew all along," Riley joked. "But the reality is I didn't offer him until late. He was playing at a smaller high school against smaller-level competition. He was playing this hybrid safety-linebacker position and quarterback. I didn't really know what he would be. I went around the horn a lot."

What Poyer has become is a technically sound cornerback with a competitive chip on his shoulder. He tied for the conference lead in interceptions last season, led the Pac-12 in passes defended and was third in passes broken up. He's also a pretty good returner, and Riley calls him the best gunner in the conference.

Poyer is confident without being cocky. He understands that good cornerbacks only get maybe two or three looks a game. That's a sign of respect. But Poyer doesn't want respect, he wants action.

"If the ball is not coming my way, I'll try to get something going," he said. "I'll try to bait the quarterback by backing off. There are times when you can take chances and throw off an alignment and try to jump something. That's one of the ways I want to get better this offseason -- knowing the game more and learning how to get in the quarterback's head a little bit and show him an off coverage and then come down and try to get an interception."

Cornerbacks are notorious for being talkers. And Poyer is no exception, but only when the other guy starts it. Then it's on.

"That's all part of the game, trying to get in your opponent's head," Poyer said. "I won't initiate it, but I won't back down from it, either. I'll have receivers telling me how they beat me even though a pass wasn't even thrown to them, and I'll just laugh. There is a lot of explicit stuff that gets said out there that I can't really talk about."

How about mother jokes? Are they still en vogue?

"I've heard a couple of momma jokes," Poyer laughed.

Poyer is trying to help whip into shape a defense that surrendered almost 31 points per game last season. The Beavers were gouged with injuries on both sides of the ball. But that allowed younger players the opportunity to get a lot of reps and game experience.

"We need growth and discipline," Poyer said. "We all have experience. You can't say anybody on this team doesn't have experience. We need to understand our assignments and how they fit into the bigger concepts. If we do that, we'll be fine. There is no question we have the talent. We just have to put everything together. We saw glimpses of that last year when everybody came together we were tough to score on."

As for Poyer's future, Riley is certain that a life in the NFL isn't too far off.

"The only thing he lacks to be a top first-round guy is probably all-out speed," Riley said. "He's got all the other instincts. Great ball skills, great change of direction. But when they test him, they'll talk themselves out of the first or second round. But he's a football player. When he goes to camp, he'll make a team because of all the stuff he can do. He's a good tackler, he's tough. To say he's heady is an understatement. You might beat him one time, but don't try it again."

In fact, he does so much that Riley said the coaching staff has considered installing a Wildcat package just for Poyer. But if it does, that probably won't happen until this summer. For now, Poyer is enjoying one last spring in Corvallis, and Riley is enjoying one last spring with his star player.

"He's a fun guy to coach because he's got great instincts about the game," Riley said. "If you tell him something, he uses it. He can fit it in to the whole process he uses to play the game. I think his No. 1 top characteristic is his competitiveness. He wants to win the game, he wants to win the one-on-one. Being around someone like that is contagious."