Making the Change: Five Big Ten Football Players with New Positions
Big Ten football has found itself in the middle of drastic changes this offseason.
For many, change is never easy.
But certain Big Ten players have seen changes well beyond the conference. They have been asked to turn in their identities for a new one.
With a willingness to change who they are as players, these gridiron warriors have taken the ultimate step in helping their teams win.
Each of them have agreed to switch to a new position on the field and give up who they thought they were.
Quarterback to receiver, receiver to corner back, defensive line to offensive line...
No matter the change, they've been dealt a new hand. Play it correctly and riches beyond team success may be in their futures.
These are five players to watch in 2010 who are willing to trade for new cards...
No. 5: Mitchell Evans, Indiana
Old Position: Wide Receiver
New Position: Safety
Mitchell Evans is just one of many Indiana Hoosiers making position changes this season. After an abysmal showing by the defense, they need any help they can get.
Evans enters the 2010 campaign coming off 33 catches, 366 yards, and three touchdowns. Not terrible numbers, but Evans still would have remained at least third on the depth chart.
Instead, he has been converted to safety to help the third worst passing defense in the Big Ten. He was slotted in as the starter for spring camp, despite missing most of spring with an injury.
With safety Jerimy Finch leaving the program in May, Evans will have an opportunity to be the last line of defense for the Hoosiers all season long. Evans has the speed and familiarity of route running to be an instant impact at the safety position.
No. 4: Eddie McGee, Illinois
Former Position: QB
New Position: WR
Eddie McGee finds himself in a unique situation. He is stuck in the middle of two positions.
McGee earned himself his only career start at quarterback last season against Michigan State. Unfortunately, it showed the position may not be the best use of his talents.
As the season progressed he saw time in a "slash" role throughout the rest of the year, which included a 48 yard reception against Fresno State.
Once the season ended he agreed to switch fully from quarterback to wide receiver.
Nathan Scheelhaase was named starting QB and all was fine in Champaign. Then, backup quarterback Jacob Charest decided to leave the program.
Now, McGee will be switching positions again, sort of.
According to Illini coach Ron Zook, McGee will be "floating" between quarterback and receiver for this upcoming year. It also means he will have double the load while training for the positions.
McGee is an extremely athletic player with plenty of speed. His abilities should flourish in a true WR role. Hopefully for his sake, he is given that opportunity as a primary receiver and only used in the quarterback role for trickery. If Zook can do this right, he may have another important offensive weapon.
No. 3: Cameron Gordon, Michigan
Old Position: Wide Receiver
New Position: Safety
Cameron Gordon entered the University of Michigan as a freshman last year. He came in with the intention of earning a spot as a wide receiver. Gordon is a solid athlete who has good hands and the size needed to succeed.
After redshirting last year, Gordon said he was open to a change. From there, the coaching staff quickly jumped at the opportunity to use his skills on the other side of ball.
Gordon will now play safety for the Wolverines and has a good shot of contributing in 2010. He may not have the opportunity to immediately start, but all indications seem to show his transition went extremely smooth.
With an awful defense the past two seasons, expect all sorts of personnel combinations to play out. And with DeMar Dorsey no longer in the fold to help the defensive backfield, younger players will have to step up quicker.
Gordon is said to be a hard-hitter who can cover the middle well. Don't be surprised to hear his name a few times before the 2010 season is over.
No. 2: Mike Rallis, Minnesota
Former Position: Safety
New Position: Strong-side Linebacker
After losing a bevy of starters last season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers find themselves searching for answers. And one they may have gotten correct is the position change of Mike Rallis from safety to linebacker.
In 2008, Rallis walked on to the Gophers squad and earned himself a scholarship. From there he had a solid freshman year, including an eight-tackle game against Wisconsin. Last year, he unfortunately suffered a broken leg early in the season, but was able to get a redshirt.
With a glaring need for linebackers in the 2010 season, it was natural for the team to make the switch.
He doesn't have great speed, which prevented him from fully encompassing the safety position. However, Rallis is a hard hitter and has a great nose for the ball. He quickly earned the strong-side linebacker starting spot in spring and won't let go.
Look for Rallis to have a solid season as a Big Ten linebacker and show promise for the future.
Don't be surprised to here his name called often against opposing Big Ten teams as he could easily lead Minnesota in tackles at year's end.
No. 1: Keith Nichol, MIchigan State
Old Position: Quarterback
New Position: Wide Receiver
Keith Nichol has had a rocky start to his college career.
First, Nichol started in Oklahoma, only to lose out to Sam Bradford in the battle to lead the Sooners. Next, he transferred back to Michigan State, but soon found himself in a battle with Kirk Cousins at QB. Both fought admirably last year, but it quickly became clear that Cousins would be the future starter for the Spartans.
Once Mark Dantonio's two-quarterback system fizzled out, Nichol was left with not many options. When a bunch of Spartans found themselves suspended, however, Nichol stepped up.
The wide receiver position was depleted heading into the Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech. Nichol quickly began learning the position and impressed the coaching staff along the way.
The actual game saw Nichol have only two catches for 11 yards, but he was far from lost. His route running looked solid and he created a nice foundation to build on.
With his speed and versatility, Nichol has made an easy transition in the offseason as a viable WR. He understands the intricacies of the quarterback/receiver relationship and looks to take full advantage.
The hype has started early for Nichol. He was named third team pre-season All Big Ten at wide receiver by Phil Steele.
Nichol will have to compete with a very deep receiving core, but seems prepared to fill in for the now departed Blair White in the top receiver slot.
Don't be surprised when the Cousins to Nichol connection becomes one of the best in the Big Ten this season.