Grant Welcomes Return To Cornerback

FAYETTEVILLE — Michael Grant has known for some time that this was a possibility, so the news didn't catch him by surprise.

Even before Arkansas opened its preseason camp in early August, defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said Grant could be moved from free safety to cornerback if sophomore Jerell Norton struggled as a starter.

Herring is turning to that backup plan after only two games.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Monday that Grant has been moved to cornerback, the position he played during his first two seasons with the Razorbacks.

The hope is that the senior can shore up the secondary and defend against the deep ball better than Norton did against the Crimson Tide.

"Wherever I've got to go to help the team win, that's what I'll do," Grant said. "I'm used to playing corner.

"I figured that's what I was going to be looking at anyway (when I arrived at Arkansas), so I don't have a problem with it."

In fact, Grant said he prefers playing cornerback over free safety. The move gives him a chance to not have to worry so much with reading defenses and then reacting.

"Now I can just go out there and play ball," Grant said.

The decision to move Grant to cornerback didn't come as a surprise. Arkansas' coaches have been contemplating it for some time, and Norton's rough night against Alabama made it apparent that a change was needed.

Norton was routinely beat by Alabama wide receiver DJ Hall, who amassed 118 yards on four catches in the first quarter. Hall finished with six catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

Norton put much of the loss on himself late Saturday night. He found out Sunday that he had lost his starting job to Grant.

"We just feel like (Grant) is a guy that's of course played there (at cornerback) before. He's probably one of the fastest guys on our team, and we think it will help our defense," Nutt said.

"We'll put him in a position to be able to make more plays. We just feel like overall it's the best thing for us to do right now."

The timing couldn't have been any better.

Arkansas hosts No. 21 Kentucky on Saturday night, and the Razorbacks will need solid coverage from their cornerbacks if they hope to slow down All-Southeastern Conference quarterback Andre' Woodson.

Woodson is considered a likely first-round pick in next year's NFL Draft, and he showed why last Saturday by passing for 275 yards and four touchdowns in an upset over No. 18 Lousville.

"We know they're going to throw the ball," Grant said, referring to Kentucky. "That kind of played into the reason why they made the move."

Arkansas has reshuffled its secondary in anticipation of Kentucky.

Grant is listed as the starting left cornerback for Saturday's game, and he'll line up opposite starting right cornerback Matterral Richardson. Norton will serve as Grant's backup.

Senior Kevin Woods, meanwhile, will take over Grant's former starting job at free safety.

"Michael Grant, he'll do anything we ask him to. He's got a great attitude," Nutt said. "Naturally, Jerell was disappointed (by the move), but we just told him we want him to work hard, keep competing and you're going get another opportunity."

Grant shouldn't have to make much of an adjustment with his return to cornerback.

He was recruited out of high school as a cornerback, and he played the position until the spring of 2006 when he was moved to add stability to the free safety spot.

At the same time, Grant is a former track and field star who has shown this season that he's recovered from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered toward the end of last season. His experience at cornerback is what Nutt is particularly interested in.

"I think (the coaches) just feel we need more experience at corner," Grant said, "a guy out there that knows what to expect in a big game like this."

Michael Grant

Age: 21

Class: Senior

Size: 5-foot-11, 182 pounds

Hometown: Stone Mountain, Ga.

Notable: Grant was recruited as a cornerback, and he played the position during his first two seasons at Arkansas. He was moved to free safety in the spring of 2006, starting nine games at the position until he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He has made a full recovery, and he's tied for the team lead with 16 tackles this season.

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