Herrion doing double duty

When Alabama returned from spring break, several position moves were the talk of the day at Tuesday's practice. Notably, former offensive tackle Atlas Herrion was getting more than his share of patient attention from the D-Line coaches. <br><br>"I figure I might get another half a day of patience," Herrion said laughing. "After that I think it's going to be over with."

Since arriving at Alabama after an All-America career at Dodge City Community College, Herrion has spent his entire time at offensive tackle. But because of his footwork and agility, the 6-4, 304-pound Daphne native has often been rumored as a possible candidate for defensive tackle.

"(The defensive line) is all right, but it's going to take a lot of work getting used to, being on this side of the ball," Herrion said. "There were a lot of things thrown at me, and I'm just trying to get better as I go."

The Tide coaches are working Herrion at defensive tackle for the rest of spring to help shore up the position.

"I played both ways in junior college and also in high school, so it's not foreign," Herrion continued. "I'm pretty much used to things both ways. But I'm a little rusty. I've got to get the rust off."

Herrion was a two-time All-American at Dodge City and was also selected All-Jayhawk Conference. He actually played three games of his final JUCO season at defensive tackle and end, totaling 25 tackles. On the prep level he was a teammate of current Tider Kenny King where the two friends shared All-State honors. As a senior at Daphne, Herrion was a Class 6A All-State selection and was considered one of the state's top line prospects.

Most fans would assume that adjusting to the different physical demands of a new position would present the toughest challenge, but Herrion pointed to the mental side instead. "The most difficult part is really just learning the calls. The vocal part of it. What's our lineup? Mainly getting your calls, getting in the right place and knowing your stunts."

As one of the principal backups at offensive tackle, Herrion played in nine of 11 games during the 2001 season, accumulating a total of 150 snaps. He finished the season with 20 knock-down blocks, allowing just one sack. Herrion had graduated junior college early, which let him enroll at Alabama for the spring semester and go through spring drills.

In many cases, a late position move is made for an athlete who has not been able to contribute at his old position. But that's hardly the case with Herrion. "It's really a compliment," he explained. "They look at me as an athlete that can help out on defense. They're saying I can play both ways. And that helps me out a lot.

"With most offensive linemen, they look at you as (being) slow. But if I'm fast enough to play D-Line, then that means I can be really good on the offensive line."

Ever since he arrived on campus, Herrion's combination of size and agility has caused speculation about using him on the D-Line.

Herrion understands the stereotype. Start a lineman out on defense, and then if his footwork isn't good enough move him to the offensive line. But he'd rather not make any of his current teammates mad. "I'm not going to say that," he said laughing. "Sometimes you've got exceptions."

And Herrion also pointed out that right now his move is temporary. "Really they're just giving me a look for the rest of the spring. Then they'll make a decision over the summer or thereafter."

At least in part Herrion's move was made to shore up a relatively thin defensive tackle position for the Tide. But with his recognized ability on offense, might he end up playing both ways? "Right now I really don't know," Herrion said. "They just want to see what I can do on defense right now. They know what I can do on offense. Maybe. After the summer when they make a decision, I may end up going both ways."

But given his background and desire to get on the field, Herrion knows what he'd prefer. "I want to play both ways. Of course. That would be a great compliment to play both ways on the D-1 level. That's unusual."

In the Tide's defensive schemes, there are two interior defensive line positions: left tackle and nose tackle. Herrion explained, "Right now they're calling me a nose, but you really flip-flop. You play both sides a lot. They're calling me a nose tackle, but you move from a 3 to a 1, going back and forth. They're equal to me."

Whether or not the move turns out to be permanent, Herrion plans to use the remaining two weeks of spring drills to improve as much as he can. "Really I need to concentrate on my ‘get off' and using my hands," he said. "I'm just going out there, trying to make a name for myself and trying to contribute to this defensive line. I just want to help out my team."

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