5 College Football Studs Who Will Need to Change Positions in the NFL
A great college football quarterback doesn't always translate into a great pro quarterback. The NFL game is so vastly different in physicality than the college game, even the best athletes have trouble making the leap from college to the pros—at least at their usual position.
There are a select few athletes who are just too physically gifted for NFL teams to ignore. Often, these players can be transformed into a solid pro at a position other than the one they played in college.
It's not always a galloping success, but for the players we've placed on this particular list, their best, and perhaps only, chance at playing on Sundays involves changing positions in the NFL.
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Braxton Miller was easily the top production player for the 12-0 Ohio State Buckeyes in 2012, the only program to finish the season without a loss. But despite being the top playmaker for the Buckeyes, Miller is far from any mention as one of the Big Ten's top quarterbacks.
The problem Miller has at the position is his near complete inability to gain any yardage through the air. Last season, Ohio State ranked 105th nationally in passing offense. Miller had just over 2,000 passing yards on the year and tossed just 15 touchdown passes compared to six interceptions.
But despite these yawn-inspiring numbers, Miller is still easily one of the best athletes in the conference, if not the nation.
His power-running ability is nearly unmatched by quarterbacks, and he has ball-carrying awareness as good as any back in the nation. And at 6'2” and 220 pounds, Miller easily fits into the mold as a power running back or finesse fullback.
With so many great passers available to NFL teams these days, Miller's best chance for glory at the next level will likely come with someone else taking the snaps.
Louis Nix III
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A guy weighing in at 326 pounds has offensive lineman written all over him. But Notre Dame's Louis Nix III instead found himself playing nose guard on the defensive side of the ball for the Fighting Irish.
Nix is certainly a solid defensive lineman, and he has solid stats. But with a low center of gravity, immense size and strength to match, we're thinking Nix could make a bigger impact for his future NFL team by moving to the offensive side of the ball.
In 2012, Nix had 20 solo tackles and two sacks. While better than some, these numbers don't pop off of the page, nor do they scream early-round pick.
If Nix can spend his senior season at Notre Dame proving that he can be more than a giant plug in the defensive line, his prospects may change. But if he wants to stubbornly cling to his nose guard spot, his 2014 NFL draft stock may slide.
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We often seen a guy who looks like a wide receiver playing safety and usually assume it's because he can't catch a ball. Fresno State's Phillip Thomas is that guy, except for the part about not catching footballs. He led the FBS in interceptions last season with eight, three of which he returned for touchdowns.
Thomas has proved he can track down balls, make a play and turn it back up field for some yardage—or even points.
Fresno State may not be the kind of program NFL scouts look to in order to find D-back talent, but if Thomas can find a niche as a slot receiver or return specialist in NFL workouts this spring, he may easily find a spot on a 55-man roster in the fall.
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With the graduation of Landry Jones, the door is now open for the next hyped quarterback to take over at Oklahoma. All signs are pointing to junior Blake Bell, or the “Belldozer” as he's fondly referred to in Norman. Bell is known almost exclusive for his bruising running style, and at 6'6” and 254 pounds, he certainly causes a lot of bruises for opposing defenses.
But for all the love Sooners fans have for Bell, he is at extreme risk of falling into the unforgivable pitfall of college quarterbacks looking to make it big at the next level.
Bell simply isn't a throwing quarterback. Over the past two seasons, he's been used almost exclusively in short-yardage running situations. He's carried the ball 103 times for just 353 yards, but he has 24 touchdowns.
His career passing stats are simply laughable. Bell is 10-of-20 for 115. No, those aren't per-game averages, but rather his career totals. All in all, Bell looks like a terrific fullback and a pretty awful quarterback.
Will Bob Stoops risk going with Bell as the full-time starter in 2013? If he does, he'll need to hope Bell can get a handle on the passing game. The high-octane Big 12 is no place for a quarterback who completes just 50 percent of his passes for fewer than seven yards per attempt while rushing for only 3.1 yards per carry.
Otherwise, the Sooners might suddenly look like they're standing still next to the rest of the conference.
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Our final college stud that really needs to change positions in the NFL is probably the most obvious choice: Michigan's Denard Robinson.
Robinson was recruited by former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez who was mightily trying to transform Big Blue into a fast and nimble Big East-style run-and-gun spread offense.
The Big Ten is what it is, and a big reason for that is programs like Michigan. The big, power run games have always been important in the conference, and that's not going to change overnight—or even over the course of a few seasons. Michigan paid the price for Rodriguez's hubris, but the Wolverines found a silver lining in Robinson.
Few players were as electric as Robinson when he was carrying the football, finding holes, juking defenders out of their pads and racking up yards like few running backs could ever hope. But throwing the football was a different story entirely.
Robinson was prone to “wounded duck” passes that easily fell into the waiting arms of defensive backs. He was also the victim of a Michigan team that needed to rely on him more than his body was capable of giving.
Injuries became a problem late in his career in Ann Arbor, as they would for any 6'0”, 195-pound player who frequently carried the ball over 20 times in a game.
Robinson already looks comfortable with a decision to move positions for the NFL, as it's likely his only hope of playing on Sundays next season. Robinson, assuming he can run routes and catch the ball with any kind of consistency, could become a phenomenal receiver at the next level. He already possesses NFL speed (and then some), and avoiding 20-some hits per game will be nothing but good for his long-term viability as a pro.
His NFL Scouting Combine workouts will tell the tale of how well he could transition into the new role, and if he can prove to teams he's capable of contributing in the passing game, don't be surprised to find him as a late-round gem snatched by a team in need of a playmaking third receiver or return specialist.