"Give me athletes": Position switches

Submitted by Magnum P.I. on September 29th, 2009 at 10:07 PM

"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief." -- John Watson, behavioral psychologist

We have 41 "well-formed" four- and five-star (per Rivals) recruits on the squad right now, 24 on offense, 17 on defense. Given our defensive challenges thus far this year and complaints regarding the lack of talent on that side of the ball (the diary comparing U-M to Iowa being an interesting exception, but reminders of Kovacs flailing at the heels of IU backs a compelling counter) it's interesting to consider if moving some of our talent to the defensive side of the ball would be a good idea and, if so, how to do it. If the argument is: "talent is talent" or "you can't teach speed" then it would seem justifiable to consider switches.

There was talk in the spring about moving Cam Gordon over to LB, and given our LB problems, this seems more and more intriguing. Would it make sense to try other highly rated athletes out on D given that no immediate help is on the way (and we're losing BG and possibly Warren)? Some guys are already cemented in the offense, but a few are interesting candidates: Brandon Moore at DE (6-6, 246, 4.65); Roy Roundtree at CB (6-0, 174, 4.4); Terrance Robinson at CB (5-9, 173, 4.4); Martell Webb at LB or DE (6-4, 254, 4.63).

Blah, blah, blah, the coaches know what's best, blah, blah, blah. But it's interesing to consider the potential for a talent infusion on the defense.

(Waiting for the "let's-put-Boubacar-at-OG" jokes).



September 29th, 2009 at 10:28 PM ^

not to say that Martell Webb can't play defense, but I like how he has preformed on offense. Especially those blocks that he has been making for our run game.


September 29th, 2009 at 11:08 PM ^

Moving T. Robinson is an interesting prospect. He obviously isn't going to be seeing the field if he hasn't already. As far as I know, his hands are suspect, which is exactly the reason a receiver tends to get switched to DB. Although, at only 5'9" he'd basically be a less polished version of Cissoko.

Roundtree is another interesting idea, he seems to be caught in between the slot and wide receiver spots, and not able to break through in either position. I don't really understand this, as he looked serviceable in the spring and there have been some injury issues. Even if Turner turns out to be as good as the hype, Michigan is going to need another good (and not 5'9") corner in a hurry, and I don't know that any help is coming in next fall.


September 29th, 2009 at 11:12 PM ^

especially Moore and T-rob. Neither of these guys seem to be close to seeing the field at their respective positions right now. Obviously a lot can change in a season and both are capable of becoming big time players, but perhaps they would have a better chance on D. I dont think I would move Roundtree (pretty impressive in spring game and at least has played this year) nor Webb (dropped two big passes, but is a terrific blocker and already splitting time at TE with Koger).

Although I think it makes sense to see how other guys could do, I do not think it would help the team this year. It takes time to learn assignments, schemes, tackling technique, reads, etc. Even if they are great athletes, there would be too many mistakes if they played. Thats why, I believe, Turner has not yet seen the field. Physically he is more ready than a Floyd or Kovacs, but mentally he is not. It is easier to live with the lack of physical skills than it is to live with the lack of mental preparedness. While Kovacs may get outrun by an rb from Indiana, he also made a ton of plays supporting the run and in coverage that helped the team win. If a player does not have the ability to know what they should do, they will get smoked more often than a player who does know but lacks the physical giftedness.

So for the future, I say try out everyone who is not close to playing at their current position. But for this season, play the guys that are ready.


September 29th, 2009 at 11:15 PM ^

They need someone legitimately over six feet that they can move to CB.

This kind of stuff all sorts itself out as the games and practices play themselves out. The coaching staff is filled with successful coaches who get paid to coach for a living; they know what to do, who to move, and when to move them. I am not the least bit worried about the defense; whether through position change, recruiting, or both, the right athletes will find their ways to the right positions.

At this point, UM just needs more athletes and needs the ones they have to grow a year older and more Barwis-ized.


September 29th, 2009 at 11:20 PM ^

Roundtree at CB is an interesting thought. I would point out that from what i've seen of Roundtree(spring game and his catch vs. Indiana) his hands are one of his strengths, and great hands make at the very least a serviceable WR.
What about James Rogers? Is he still on the team? He could potentially help out at CB or S presumably, because he was listed as a 4 star safety on scout.
Other than those two i don't know if John Ferrara wasn't good at defense or something, but he definitely seems to be a D-1 caliber player, and i think we have more depth on the offensive line than on defense.

Wallaby Court

September 30th, 2009 at 12:16 AM ^

I just looked up KG's 2005 Rivals stats (5'10", 230 lbs, 4.5 40). While Kevin may have the weight, he seems a little bit on the short side to play linebacker. For comparison, Obi Ezeh was listed at 6'2", Jonas Mouton at 6'2" and J.B. Fitzgerald at 6'4".

But as a counter to that argument, Brian Rolle (OSU's new stud LB) came out of high school at 5'10". Apparently my gut instinct was wrong.


September 30th, 2009 at 12:19 AM ^

specifically his arms. I dont think he has the reach to be able to play on D. One of the biggest, yet often underestimated, attributes of a good defensive player is his wing span. You have to be able to keep blockers off of you, as well as grab ball carriers flying by you. If you dont have a long reach, both are very difficult to do. Once an olineman gets to your body, you are pretty much done, unless you are a dwight freeney type that can just spin away. But even Freeney is 6'1. So while Kevin Grady seems to have the athleticism and rage to play the positon of LB, I think he would get eaten alive because of his small stature.


September 30th, 2009 at 12:25 AM ^

Booboo at OG? Are you crazy?!? Didn't you see The Moose against Indy? We need Booboo anchoring the line at center!

Turner is going to be in there soon. Coach Rod keeps hinting at the inevitable once he gets the school, system and conditioning established.

The King of Belch

September 30th, 2009 at 3:42 AM ^

Say, I've got two examples of it for ya: Obi Ezeh and Morgan Trent. I guess you could say, "John Navarre, dickhead" and I might go, "oh...yeah"

Fact is, position switching is a year or two of re-learning the game. Expecially offense to defense and vicey-versace. It'slike a redshirt without saving the year of eligibility.

Of course, the player has to agree to it.

WRT to some of the possibilities mentioned:

Cam Gordon is a Big Man, and physical. I believe he played linebacker in high school, and during his tours of camps, wowed them with his defensive play. But the problem is: Cam wants to play receiver. What do you do?

Terence Robinson: Uh, no. Another 5'9 (on his tippy toes) cornerback? I like speedy midgets as much as anyone, but we need some height and physical play in the defesnive backfield (the biggest knock against offense to defense switcheroos is that offensive guys are kind of, well, ghey compared to their defensive counterparts. They don't have the 'Tude). No thanks.

Martell Webb at LB: Maybe three years ago. And on a sidenote, a whole lot of the dorks at Scout were yelping for Koger at DE. Huh? Koger is a weapon on offense, and the only way that makes sense is if this staff can't figure out how to get him more touches (which may be the case. I am still dubious about the future of the TE at UM under Rodriguez, even Koger's).

I don't favor it unless you have an athlete who has the mad skillz on both sides of the ball and has shown them in the past. I just don't understand why this staff should have trouble recruiting defensive players who have PLAYED defense in high school.

Oh wait--maybe I do. Gerg and Tall don't recruit. Hopson is, well, Hopson. That leaves the DB coach (can never remember if it's Dews or Gibson) as the lone defensive recruiter (if in fact he does recruit). And oh yeah, this staff has one less defensive coach than the usual.

So yeah, maybe the position switching, as opposed to recruiting, is the answer for these guys.


September 30th, 2009 at 5:14 PM ^

We had grand rounds this morning and the guest spoke on what it takes to become an 'expert'. Not just really good, or great, or skilled or gifted.

It takes 10000 hours. This assumes 10000 hours of having support via coaches/teachers/mentors available and pushing you. Giving you feedback and direction. A true desire to learn. This is NOT limited to athletes. This lecture was by an anesthesiologist. He said this applies to musicians, athletes, doctors... Anything that requires skill and knowledge.

He didn't give a whole lot of specifics, but he said this field of study was started in 1948 by a German who wanted to understand why some people become SO good at something and others not quite as much.