- Ryan McGee, ESPN Senior Writer
Ah, the dark days of winter. Those that fall between national signing day and the start of spring practice. What exactly does a coaching staff do with this quiet time?
"I stare at the depth-chart board a lot," Larry Fedora admitted as signing day drew to a close and he started to concentrate fully on his third season as head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels. "Who is coming back? Who fits where? Where might the new guys fit in? Honestly, I don't think you want the coaches to have too much time to fiddle around with that board, swapping guys in and out of different positions. We can start coming up with some crazy ideas."
Crazy? Well, yes, some of them are. But most are born of necessity.
"Obviously, you want your players in the positions where they are the most comfortable," new Penn State head coach James Franklin said after having some time to digest his Penn State roster, still very much affected by the Jerry Sandusky scandal and resulting NCAA sanctions. "But at the end of the day, I want to come as close to having my 22 best athletes on the field as I possibly can."
That means some position switching will likely be coming to Happy Valley, as it will throughout the land during the great experiment that is spring practice. What roster swaps will have the greatest impact on the 2014 college football season? It's too early to tell. But here are some potential flip-flops to keep an eye on this March and April:
Bell, the one-time heir apparent to Landry Jones, is no longer a Sooners quarterback. He's a tight end, officially handing over the QB duties to teammate Trevor Knight. As a junior in 2013, Bell ceded the QB job to Knight, who locked up the starter's role by leading OU to a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. With Bell moving over to TE, and only a pair of freshmen and Texas Tech refugee Baker Mayfield behind Knight, the soon-to-be sophomore looks to have that job from now until he leaves Norman.
But you remember the Belldozer, don't you? The guy who scored 24 touchdowns in 104 rushes during his two years watching Jones under center? Now head coach Bob Stoops hopes to recapture that red zone magic using the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder as a tight end, the same position his father Mark played (as well as defensive end) during five seasons in the NFL.
"Blake wants to stay here and finish out. He wants to try tight end and I think it's a great fit," said Stoops.