SEC players who could make an impact at a new position in 2015
Ah, spring. The time to experiment. On the field, we mean.
Several SEC teams are doing just that, tinkering with offensive linemen or super-athletic players without a positional home.
Here are a few of the players moving to a new spot in 2015.
Darrius Sims, Vanderbilt: Officially listed as a defensive back in 2014, Sims also returned kicks (two for touchdowns) and worked as a running back and receiver. As a nickleback, he broke up two passes and returned an interception for a touchdown. He still should return kicks, but the Commodores have shifted him to running back full-time. Expect new coordinator Andy Ludwig to get creative with his speed and vision, which should give Vandy some unpredictable play-calling options.
Arkansas offensive line: Denver Kirkland is moving to left tackle. Dan Skipper is moving to right tackle. Frank Ragnow is moving to right guard. Granted, the moves are logical and should make the Razorbacks even better at offensive line. But does Bret Bielema love to tinker with offensive linemen or what? It’s like his version of a celebrity with a sports car collection.
Brandon Powell, Florida: A running back by title in 2014, Powell caught 15 passes and emerged as a strong receiving threat late in the season. Now he’s playing receiver full-time, and even switched jerseys to No. 4. Powell apparently was earning rave reviews during spring practice before an old foot injury flared up, but he’s still expected to start in the slot for the Gators this fall.
Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M: He played right tackle last season before injuring his knee, but he may switch to left tackle in 2015. A coveted position on the Aggies’ team, one that gets a ton of action in pass pro and usually equates to coveted status in the NFL draft, A&M’s left tackle spot is up for grabs between Ifedi and Avery Gennesy, who redshirted as a junior-college transfer in ’14. Whomever takes the role, whether or not it’s Ifedi, has a tough recent legacy to uphold.
Jeremy Liggins, Ole Miss: Liggins, a backup tight end and wildcat quarterback for the Rebels last season, has moved to offensive tackle. Recruited by LSU as a quarterback, the 296-pound Liggins also played some defensive end at Northeast Mississippi Community College. With Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper manning the bookend spots, don’t expect Liggins to start. But his size and athleticism make him a logical fit at the position, and coach Hugh Freeze believes he may have an NFL future. Liggins has a redshirt season available, so perhaps he’ll spend 2015 learning before competing for a starting tackle spot.
Anthony Averett, Alabama: Along with Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, Averett is part of a group of young, athletic Alabama defensive backs good enough to win SEC titles — in track and field. Coach Nick Saban wants to find a way to use Averett’s speed and explosiveness. A two-way standout in high school football, Averett redshirted last season at a log-jammed cornerback spot, but Alabama is experimenting with him at receiver. Since Cam Sims reportedly has torn his ACL, perhaps the Tide could use another playmaker at the position.
Vadal Alexander and Gerald Hawkins, LSU: Hawkins is moving from right to left tackle, where he’s a more natural fit physically. Alexander is sliding from left guard to right tackle. Together they hope to help the Tigers make up for the loss of La’el Collins, likely a first-round pick at either offensive tackle or guard. It seems like a smooth, logical transition thus far.
Jacob Hyde, Kentucky: A three-star defensive tackle as part of the 2013 class, Hyde has played one career game for the Wildcats. At 6-foot-2 and 333 pounds, he may see the field more often this fall — as a short-yardage fullback. Hyde was in disbelief when offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson came to him asking to try him on the other side of the ball. But the team slowly has used the fullback more often since coach Mark Stoops arrived in Lexington. Hyde is shaky so far, unfamiliar with his assignments. But if you’re a linebacker or defensive end, do you want someone Hyde’s size barreling toward you with a head start near the goal line?
Ian Simon, Missouri: He’s played nickelback and boundary safety the last two seasons. Now he’ll shift into the role previously held by Braylon Webb, providing umbrella coverage on the back end of Mizzou’s defense and covering more area on the field. Which may be a good thing, since his tackling was just OK in ’14. He made significant progress last season. If he does so again he’ll be an asset to the Tigers’ secondary.
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn: Unless true freshman Chandler Cox can get up to speed — and weight — quickly, Pettway is going to be the Tigers’ H-back in 2015. Pettway has added about 20 pounds since he signed with the team as a bulky running back, and he’s well-suited as a lead blocker. Reports say he’s looked like a natural at the position in spring practice.
Antonio Riles, Florida: OK, so Riles actually moved from offensive to defensive line in the spring of 2014. But he played in just four games as a reserve, and just now is beginning to really transform. Plus there’s this cool quote from coach Jim McElwain: “It’s been like putting flower seeds in a pot and you put some water on it and you watch it grow. At first you just kind of see little leaves sticking above the dirt; now I’m actually seeing a little bud of a flower coming.”