Sure, college coaches might be comfortable with switching a signee from his lifelong playing position to something totally new. As for the players, it can be like trying to learn a new language. And can lead to some R-rated language during the transition.
"Just because I'm good at this s--- doesn't mean I should have to do it," I remember hearing Tennessee All-American Carl Pickens screaming at coaches as he stomped out of a position meeting in 1990. The wide receiver was one of the best natural athletes I've ever seen. So much so that a desperate then-Vols head coach Johnny Majors started playing him both ways in '89, at wideout on offense and cornerback on defense during his redshirt freshman season. As much as Pickens complained -- and he did a lot -- he also accomplished something that in these times would cause a Twitter meltdown. He caught a touchdown pass and hauled in an interception in the same game. Twice.
"It is hard to re-program the brain of a 19-year old," Majors says now. "They always resist. But you hope that the kid can see into the same crystal ball that you can as coach. Even if their switch to a new position is only temporary, it can make them a complete football player that they would have never been otherwise. I certainly thought it made Carl Pickens a better receiver."
Sometimes the payoff is immediate, as it was during the one-year Pickens experiment, or more recently when Ohio State moved Zach Boren from fullback to middle linebacker, which was actually his preferred position in high school. Other times, it just never seems to click. See: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech's tight end-turned-quarterback.
But who among today's players has seen the gamble return some very nice dividends, for both the player and his team? Here are five of the best current college position switcheroos, guys who will likely make a big impact on 2013, even if from an unlikely spot on the field.
Devin Fuller, WR, UCLA Bruins: Jim Mora and his staff wanted to find a way to get their most highly-touted recruit onto the field, even if that meant breaking the freshman out of his natural position of quarterback. In the season's first seven games he recorded the exact same offensive statistics as you and me. Zero. But over the final seven games he saw plenty of action, pressed there by injuries, including two starts and two TD catches.
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