As young football players develop, they begin to specialize as positional players. Some grow to be linemen (or have no choice and because of size are thrown into the role), some receivers, some running backs and so on.
It takes a special kind of player, at the college level, to play different positions on different sides of the ball. It is a matter of athleticism, certainly, but also speaks of intelligence and commitment to the team concept. Sometimes, it may be out of necessity. The team needs a player to fill it at a certain position, or the player is so willing to play he will move to any place on the field. Sometimes the coaching staff is so eager to use an athlete that they will find a place for him, even if it means moving him around.
Doug Martin is a case in point. As a Bronco, he was a hard-nosed running back who blocked and caught passes, but during his sophomore year he played in the defensive secondary. He also opened the 2011 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Martin is not an isolated case. There are other Broncos who, during the course of their career, have played and continue to be utilized in different positions.
Who, among the 2012 Broncos, can play different positions as needed? Here's a short list…
Mitch Burroughs (5'9'', 193 lbs) is listed as a wide receiver, and his numbers at that position are pretty good. In 2011, the soon-to-be redshirt senior caught 49 passes for 500 yards and a touchdown. But Burroughs also got his hands on the ball on the end-around, and carried the pigskin 17 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns. He was also ranked eighth nationally as a punt returner, averaging 13.3 yards per return.
In 2011, as a redshirt junior, Tommy Smith (6'1'', 238 lbs) was in the linebacker corps, playing mostly as a backup to graduated senior Byron Hout. He played in 12 games, and had 18 tackles (14 of them solo) with three tackles for loss in the mix. In one game he played as the fullback, catching one pass for 11 yards. As a redshirt freshman, he was on special teams.
While Smith is emerging as a team leader at the linebacker position, according to a story in the Idaho Statesman, and is likely to see most of his time at that position, he is the kind of player that can be counted on to fill in where needed. He was also named twice to the Western Athletic Conference All-Academic team.
D.J. Harper (5'9'', 205 lbs) is a known quantity at running back. In 2011, he carried the ball 115 times for 557 yards and nine touchdowns. In the Bronco offensive scheme, he not only is required to tote the football, but block as well as receive. He also has to catch the ball. In 2011, he caught 19 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also returned five kickoffs for 66 yards and blocked a punt.
In 2011, as a redshirt junior, Chris Potter (5'9'', 159 lbs) played in only 10 games, and caught 11 passes for 105 yards. He missed three games due to injury. He was the No. 2-ranked punt returner in the Mountain West Conference behind teammate Mitch Burroughs. His 10.5 yards per return was ranked No. 21 in the nation.
As a sophomore, he carried the ball six times for 33 yards, and was twice named the WAC Special Teams Player of the Week. Potter came to BSU out of Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Ca., where—as a senior—he played quarterback.