You knew Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide coaching staff were going to throw a few surprises out there this spring. After all, you don't bring home national championships on a consistent basis doing everything by the book.
With practices underway, the two shockers that stand out the most are seeing both Dee Hart and Cyrus Jones playing on the defensive side of the ball. According to Mark Edwards of the Ledger Inquirer, (h/t College Football Talk), that is exactly what is happening early on.
"We're looking to see if any of those guys can help us, and if this would be a better circumstance for how much they would be able to contribute to our team," Saban said.
It is important to note that neither of these moves are permanent, especially if neither player can impress the coaching staff quickly enough. Spring practice is all about experimenting and this is exactly what Saban is doing. However, both of these guys are extremely talented and when you have that going for you, you have to do what you can to get them on the field.
This is Saban thinking outside of the box and trying his best to put his playmakers on the field, giving guys a chance to succeed rather than riding the bench for another season.
Hart came out of high school as one of the more talented runners of the 2011 class. However, he has had issues staying healthy, as he has suffered two ACL injuries and only has 21 carries to his name in the time he has spent in Tuscaloosa. With his natural speed and lateral quickness, he is somebody who can make the switch to cornerback and be a productive player, if he can stay healthy, of course.
Making the move to defense should also provide less of a chance of him getting hurt yet again. While he is the one that will be unleashing the blows, the high risk of him suffering another setback should decrease with him playing the defense.
As for Jones, I actually suggested this move about a month ago. Like Hart, Jones was one of the top recruits from his class and considered widely to be one of the best at his position. The problem is that Alabama has seen so many young receivers blossom in a short amount of time; it would have taken a remarkable spring practice for the young man to even see the field. Last season he only caught four passes for 51 yards.
The only way to take advantage of his abilities is to try him out at a position that isn't loaded with depth. This would be putting him on defense and seeing how he stacks up as a defensive back.
For Jones, the transition should come much easier considering he was a two-way player back in high school. With great instincts, tremendous footwork and the ability to get physical at the line of scrimmage, Jones is somebody who could pan out quite well defensively. It may not be as flashy as catching touchdown passes from quarterback A.J. McCarron, but it sure beats spending a second season on the bench.
This move just shows why Saban is so successful and if both Hart and Jones play to their ability, there is no reason they won't be as well at their new positions.