The Daily Nole

FSU Football: When it Comes to Position Changes, Jimbo Knows Best

Ross Obley/FSU athletics

As is usually the case during the spring, a few notable Florida State players have taken on a different position. Defensive ends Rick Leonard and Chris Casher moved to offensive tackle and tight end respectively while Ryan Green moved back to running back after spending last offseason in the secondary.

The most scrutinized position change was Leonard, because of the size and raw ability that could be utilized up front. Despite being recognized for his play at end last spring, Leonard recorded just five tackles and no sacks in 2015. This week, Leonard spent time with the starting offensive line, which goes to show that when it comes to position changes, few know better than FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher.

Perhaps the most glaring example also made the move from the defensive line to the offensive. Cameron Erving was recruited as a 3-star defensive tackle out of Colquitt County, Georgia and spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at the position. In 2012, Erving made the move to offensive tackle and eventually center. Erving went on to become an All-American as a senior in 2014 before being taken 19th overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2015 NFL Draft.

While Erving was just a 3-star recruit out of high school, Fisher has also had success with moving some of the Seminoles’ more prominent recruits.

Karlos Williams was the nation’s top safety when he arrived in Tallahassee in 2011. After starting the 2013 season-opener at Pittsburgh in the secondary, Williams was moved to running back to join an already deep corps that included Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr.

In less than two full seasons at the position, Williams amassed more than 1,400 yards rushing while averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring 23 total touchdowns, including game-winners as a senior to beat ranked Clemson and Notre Dame teams. As a rookie with the Buffalo Bills last season, Williams averaged 5.6 yards per carry and was tied for the team-lead with nine total touchdowns.

Though Fisher has had success moving players from one side of the ball to the other, the change hasn’t always been so drastic. In the case of Lonnie Pryor, it was a simple move from tailback to fullback that sprung his career.

Pryor began his FSU career under head coach Bobby Bowden, but Fisher was the team’s offensive coordinator and had already been named head coach in waiting. Pryor was a highly-recruited tailback, but was forced to move to fullback after a September injury to Daniel Gard.

At fullback would be where Pryor would stay as he blossomed into one of the nation’s premier blocking backs while remaining a viable option as a play-maker. Throughout his career, Pryor scored 23 total touchdowns. In his final game — a 31-10 Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois on Jan. 1, 2013 — he was named the game’s MVP with 134 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on just five carries.

For Fisher, converting players to fullback has become something of a theme. Chad Abram, who succeeded Pryor at the position, arrived in Tallahassee as a safety. After minimal playing time for three years, Abram filled in admirably as the team’s starter in 2013. Abram caught three touchdowns that season, including a fourth quarter score in the Seminoles’ 34-31 BCS National Championship victory over Auburn.

Current fullback Freddie Stevenson has never lined up anywhere else for the Seminoles, but was recruited out of Bartow High School as a linebacker. Stevenson is expected to be the main blocking back for FSU for a third straight season.

In the secondary, it’s not been uncommon to see talented players like Jalen Ramsey, Lamarcus Joyner, Tyler Hunter or Terrence Brooks spend time at both cornerback and safety throughout their careers. The same is true for players like Erving and Chad Mavety on the offensive line.

Nick Moody enjoyed success moving from safety to linebacker as a senior in 2012. Though his numbers decreased, the move prepared Moody for an NFL career at the position. Moody was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers and appeared in all 16 games for the team in 2014.

Position changes however, aren’t always successful. Names like A.J. Alexander and Avis Commack are usually more forgotten than remembered. There’s no telling how Green might have performed in the secondary had it not been for a shoulder injury that derailed his 2015 season and Giorgio Newberry’s transition to tight end in 2013 didn’t bear much fruit.

If Green and Newberry prove anything however, it’s that players with eligibility left can revert to their old positions. After playing defensive tackle in 2014, Newberry moved back to end in 2015 and though he was mostly a rotational player, he did enough to earn an invite to the NFL Combine. Green is expected to battle Jacques Patrick, Mario Pender and Johnathan Vickers for the role of No. 2 running back behind starter Dalvin Cook.

Whether Leonard or Casher are capable of succeeding at their new positions remains to be seen, but after combining for just 12 tackles a season ago, the risk seems minimal. The reward on the other hand, could be great. If history has taught us anything, it’s just to sit back and relax because Jimbo Fisher knows what he’s doing.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply