2009, 2010, 2011
Ex-QBs change position for better chance to play
Ex-QBs change position for better chance to play
02:23 AM CDT on Thursday, April 16, 2009
Pat White is all any NCAA football team would covet in a quarterback. But he may not be what the NFL covets at the position.
White won 34 of his 42 starts at West Virginia and is the only quarterback in NCAA history to win four bowl games.
But at 6-0, 197 pounds, with average arm strength, White doesn't fit the quarterback prototype in the NFL. He intrigues the pros as a potential Wildcat quarterback – an NFL novelty item. Some teams envision him as a slot receiver who would double as a kick returner.
But don't assume such position changes are philosophical enlightenment by the NFL. The college game has been doing it for years. There are more than 40 non-quarterbacks on the 2009 draft board who played quarterback in high school, including eight cornerbacks, eight wide receivers, seven tight ends, seven safeties and seven linebackers.
"I'd say half the D-I athletes played quarterback in high school," said Darius Butler, who played quarterback in high school but moved to cornerback at Connecticut. He became a four-year starter and projects as a first-round draft pick this month.
In high school, the best athlete generally winds up as the quarterback. The coach wants the ball in that player's hands as often as possible, and playing quarterback allows a school's best athlete to touch it on every play.
Butler passed and rushed for 1,000 yards as a senior at Coral Springs Charter High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He accounted for 25 touchdowns that season.
Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, the top wide receiver on the draft board, played quarterback at Carter. Wake Forest's Alphonso Smith, who projects as a first-round pick at cornerback, also was a quarterback in high school.
You can find former high school quarterbacks at just about every position on the draft board. TCU linebacker Jason Phillips and Fresno State tight end McKenna "Bear" Pascoe also are on that list.
Finding new talents
So is Oregon guard Fenuki Tupou, whose blocking helped the Ducks lead the Pac-10 in rushing in each of his two seasons as a starter. He is 6-5, 314 pounds now. As a sophomore at Center High School in Sacramento, Calif., Tupou took the snaps as a 300-pound quarterback.
"We ran an option offense," Tupou said, "and I had the best arm."
But Tupou knew his future was not at quarterback. So did Quan Cosby of Texas. He was an all-state quarterback at Mart, Texas, passing for 1,405 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for 1,924 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior. His college career was delayed for four years while he pursued a pro baseball career. When Cosby finally enrolled at Texas in 2005, he had become a wide receiver.
"In my opinion, I was way too short to be a quarterback," said Cosby, who is 5-8. "But I wanted to try [in high school]. I knew I would never be a quarterback at the next level. During the summers, I played some receiver in practice, and I was blessed with an ability to catch the ball. So it was just a matter of working on it."
Cosby all but perfected the art at Texas, catching 92 passes last season and 212 in his career. Now he projects as the type of player some NFL teams envision White – slot receiver and kick returner. He's a late-round projection because of his size.
Paul Kruger was one of the best pass rushers in the nation at Utah last season and is expected to be drafted within the first three rounds. He spent three seasons at Utah and played on two unbeaten teams, earning All-Mountain West honors as a defensive end last season.
Kruger was recruited by Utah as a quarterback after having earned prep All-America honors at Orem, Utah, in 2003. He redshirted as a freshman, then spent two years on a church mission. When he returned to Utah in 2007, he found himself at defensive end.
"It was an easier transition than most people would assume," said Kruger, who is 6-4, 263 pounds. "I was big, tall and athletic. Putting my hand down wasn't a big deal. Once I mentally decided, 'This is what I'm doing,' it was pretty easy."
Uneasy about change
But mentally accepting the position change is tougher on some.
Davon Drew won two state titles as a high school quarterback at New Bern, N.C. He redshirted at East Carolina in 2004 and quarterbacked the scout team in 2005. But his coaches approached him in the fall of 2006 about moving to tight end.
"It took me a while before I made the change," Drew said. "I was doubtful about it. They left it up to me, and it took me awhile to make the change. The coaches were proud of me for it. They saw me as being a team player. A lot of positives came from it."
Drew put on 40 pounds since his quarterback days. He became a starter in 2007 and an All-Conference USA choice in 2008. Drew (6-4, 256) caught 43 passes last season and set a school record for receiving yards by a tight end with 695. He projects as a mid-round pick.
"I'm glad I moved," Drew said. "If I had stayed at quarterback, I probably wouldn't have a future like this. So I'm excited."
The safety choice
Stephen Hodge played both ways at Tatum, Texas, taking the snaps at quarterback on offense and lining up in the secondary on defense. He rushed for 2,000 yards as a junior and passed for a combined 3,000 yards in his final two seasons.
Missouri recruited him as a quarterback, eyeing him as a replacement for Brad Smith in their option offense. TCU wanted him to play defense.
Hodge chose defense. He knew if he had a future beyond college, it would be as a 230-pound defensive back, not a 5-11 quarterback.
"I miss it," said Hodge, who projects as a second-day pick, of his days as a quarterback. "It was a fun position. Offense gets all the love. The defense puts in all the work, and the offense gets all the glory."
Which brings us back to White. He completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 6,049 yards and 56 touchdowns at West Virginia and also set the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,480 yards and 16 touchdowns.
But football players tend to wind up at the position that gives them and their team the best chance for success. Some get moved in high school, some in college and others in the NFL. Everyone can't play quarterback.
"A few teams have told me they think I can play quarterback at the next level," White said. "A few have said they can see me at another position. I just want to help any way I can. If it's receiver, punt returner, defensive back – any way that I can help the team win is something I look forward to doing."
SPREADING THEIR TALENT AROUND
Here are four players who left high school as accomplished quarterbacks but will enter the NFL at other positions:
Bear Pascoe, TE, Fresno State
Pascoe posted a 16-4 record as a high school quarterback, amassing 3,500 total yards and 35 touchdowns. He was recruited as a quarterback by Fresno State but moved to tight end and became a three-year starter. He projects as a mid-round pick.
Paul Kruger, DE, Utah
A four-year captain and an all-state quarterback, Kruger redshirted as a freshman, then went on a two-year church mission and returned as a pass-rushing end. An All-Mountain West selection in 2008, Kruger projects as a premium draft pick (first three rounds).
Lardarius Webb, CB, Nicholls State
A two-time all-state selection as an option quarterback in Alabama, Webb became a defensive back at Southern Miss before transferring to Nicholls State, where he became a two-time All-Southland Conference pick at strong safety. He projects as a mid-round draft pick.
Stephen Hodge, S, TCU
Hodge rushed for 1,561 yards and passed for 1,471 as a senior at Tatum, Texas, but moved to safety at TCU. He became an All-Mountain West selection as a senior but now projects as a second-day draft pick as an outside linebacker.