2014 College Football Recruits Who Will Change Positions in College
Oftentimes, people forget that recruits are still young players who are growing, becoming more athletically coordinated and have much to learn. Although today's high school players are more physically and mentally mature, they're nonetheless in the early stages of their development.
Many players in the 2014 class will not finish their college careers at the same position they are listed at. Big high school linebackers grow into defensive ends, high school offensive tackles become college guards and many dual-threat quarterbacks become receivers, running backs or defensive backs.
Examining the 2014 class, several top-tier prospects are on track for a position change. A pair of elite cornerback prospects could be better on offense, a big defensive end will be moved to tackle in college and a tall receiver with good hands is a future starting tight end.
Mason Cole, OL
Michigan commit Mason Cole is capable of playing several positions on the offensive line. As with many good high school offensive linemen, he plays tackle for his high school team but can be moved around.
Cole, who is 6'4" and 285 pounds, has good quickness and toughness. He can play left or right tackle if asked, but guard is his best position. He has no issues quickly getting out of his stance at the snap or flipping his hips and can flash great agility to execute trap blocks.
Cole has the potential to be a "swing" lineman in college, which is a versatile lineman who can play anywhere across the front. Do not be surprised if he is credited with starts at left guard, right guard, center and right tackle before he leaves Ann Arbor.
Tony Brown, CB
Tony Brown, who is one of the best athletes in the country, is a fantastic cornerback prospect. He has the potential to be an immediate contributor and an All-Conference player on the perimeter in college.
However, Brown, who is 6'0" and 188 pounds, also displays the skill set of a stud safety. He has tremendous play speed, explodes out of transition and has great instincts. Brown also has a strong upper body, is not afraid to play in the box and possesses great ball skills on the back end.
He would be able to cover slot receivers due to his cornerback background while still being able to blitz and use his speed to chase running plays.
Brown would give a college defense great flexibility from the safety position. He could sign with a school as a great cornerback prospect and leave as an accomplished free safety.
Solomon Thomas, DE
Finding great strong-side defensive ends on the recruiting trail can be tough for college coaches. However, Solomon Thomas has the capability to hold his own at the position—for now.
Thomas, who is 6'3" and 256 pounds, has good strength and power. He can grab a blocker at the snap, stand him up, read a play and shed to make the tackle. However, he does not jump on top of blockers at the snap and lacks the speed to consistently make plays from the back side.
Thomas is a classic example of a big high school defensive end who will have to be moved inside to tackle in college. Should he sign with a program that runs a 3-4 defense, he would technically stay at defensive end, but five-technique trench players are essentially defensive tackles.
Ronnie Clark, S
Ronnie Clark, who would be a good fit in the SEC, plays safety for Calera High School in Alabama. He is a great athlete who shows solid play speed and ball skills on the back end.
However, Clark, who is 6'3.5" and 210 pounds, will be an outside linebacker at the next level. He has the potential to be excellent in coverage as a 'backer who can buzz back, flip his hips to locate receivers and jump passing lanes.
He would be able to cover tight ends and running backs in man coverage while using his instincts to make tackles versus running plays, which would allow him to play on all three downs.
Clark is already oversized for a safety, and he is only going to get bigger in college. Outside linebacker is in his future, and he will excel at the position.
Mark Andrews, WR
Mark Andrews, who caught more than 80 passes as a junior, is a receiver with good length and hands. He can win jump-ball situations due to his ability to shield defenders, catch in a crowd and high-point balls.
However, the 6'6", 230-pound Andrews lacks good speed and quickness. He needs time to build up his engine and is not a sudden athlete. Quick cornerbacks will have no problems covering him in college due to his average-at-best separation quickness.
Yet a move to tight end will provide Andrews the ability to exploit matchups with safeties and linebackers. He could use his size, soft hands and ball skills to be a terror in the seams.
Malik McDowell, DE
Malik McDowell is 6'7", 290 pounds and is listed as a defensive end by 247Sports. He has the prototypical size of a 3-4 defensive end, but he will be better suited as a defensive tackle in college.
McDowell is a deceptive athlete with solid snap quickness, and he plays big at the point of attack. He can get under a blocker's pads and walk him deep in the pocket as a pass-rusher or anchor versus double-teams as a run-defender to make a mess in the middle.
McDowell lacks the great explosiveness of a defensive end, but he would be solid getting off the ball versus guards. He is, without question, a future defensive tackle.
Joshua Casher, OL
Auburn commit Joshua Casher is a tough offensive line prospect who can play across the front. He has experience playing tackle, is capable of lining up at guard and flashes skills to be a good center.
However, Casher, who is 6'1" and 297 pounds, should moved inside permanently on the Plains. He is a productive interior blocker who comes off the ball hard at the snap, has a good punch and can steer his targets to create holes.
Casher shows good agility as a pass protector and is not limited to tight spaces. He will help his fellow blockers when he's uncovered and has the athleticism to perform an array of blocks.
Saint Paul's Episcopal School in Alabama would be smart to play Casher at left tackle during his senior season, but he will be a great guard or center at Auburn.
Gerald Willis, DE
Gerald Willis, who made 100 tackles and has 13 sacks in 2012, is listed as a defensive end by 247Sports and Scout.com. He has the skills to be a college strong-side defensive end and sub-package defensive tackle.
However, Willis, who is 6'3" and 275 pounds, is growing into a defensive tackle. He could be 300 pounds at the start of his junior season in college and would be a great three-technique interior defensive lineman. He can slip gaps, skinny through double-teams and has good short-area quickness when pursuing the ball.
Willis shows the toughness to hold up inside and is a physical hitter. He fights offensive linemen and does not back down from double-teams. He will be moved to defensive tackle early in his collegiate career.
Adoree' Jackson, CB
Adoree' Jackson is a great long-jumper, but he's is also a great cornerback prospect who has the athleticism to contribute as a freshman. He has great instincts, is explosive in transition and has great speed to cover receivers.
However, Jackson, who is 5'10" and 182 pounds, recently informed Brandon Huffman of Scout.com (subscription required) that he wishes to play receiver in college. He could be dynamic a multipurpose player on offense, resembling the likes of Tavon Austin when he was at West Virginia.
Jackson has electric elusiveness and a great burst with the ball. He displays natural instincts and awareness to find open areas while running, as he can jet to daylight when he squares his shoulders to the goal posts. While he is a great cornerback prospect, Jackson could be an outstanding receiver/"Joker" player at the next level.
Speedy Noil, ATH
Speedy Noil, who is a great dual-threat quarterback for Edna Karr in New Orleans, La., is one of the most exciting players in the country. He has amazing speed and athleticism, which helps him make big plays with the ball in his hands.
The 5'10.5", 176-pound Noil threw for more than 2,200 yards and ran for more than 1,300 yards as a junior. He plays quarterback, so he can touch the ball on each snap, but he will be moved to receiver in college. He needs to refine his route-running and other nuances of the position, but he could be a No. 1 receiver at the next level.
Noil has excellent release quickness, explodes out of his breaks to separate and has the speed to get on top of a secondary. He is dangerous after the catch and also has the potential to be a standout returner. He won't be playing quarterback in college, but he will still touch the football often.
Jabrill Peppers, CB/ATH
Jabrill Peppers, who is committed to Michigan, is a versatile recruit who can play almost anywhere. He is listed as a cornerback by Scout.com, but he could play safety, running back or receiver in Ann Arbor.
At 6'1" and 205 pounds, Peppers is a gifted athlete with terrific instincts. He has the speed, awareness and the vision to be a slashing running back. He also has the ball skills and hands of a receiver. He could form a two-headed monster with Derrick Green at running back or be half of a dynamic duo with Drake Harris at receiver.
Wherever Peppers plays first for the Wolverines, do not expect him to be limited to that single position. His size, intelligence and athleticism warrant immediate playing time at several positions. He could even return kicks and punts.