If anyone can make the switch to a new football position, it should be freshman Dan Kinsey. The safety-turned-linebacker is anything but one-dimensional.
Besides his exploits on the football field at Beaver Local High School in Wellsville, Ohio, Kinsey was an elite track and field athlete, winning the 2004 national champion in the decathlon. He is now using that athleticism and versatility to make the move from the defensive backfield.
"It's real different playing a new position," said the 6-3, 195-pound Kinsey. "I like linebacker, so I think it will be a good fit for me down the road. I know it's going to be real hard, but I'm ready to get into it."
Kinsey is one of many Hoosiers converting to a new position under first-year head coach Terry Hoeppner. While it is not uncommon for freshmen to switch positions in their first season, Indiana has taken on a new focus of recruiting athletes and who can play a few positions.
Among the newcomers who find themselves at new spots are Matt Lewis (from linebacker to defensive tackle); Josh Bailey (from wide receiver to cornerback); Todd Newman (from tight end to defensive tackle) and Tim Sergi (from running back to safety). In addition, one of the first moves Hoeppner made was to switch John Pannozzo from fullback to middle linebacker.
"That's what we recruit," said linebacker coach and special teams coordinator George Ricumstrict. "(Linebackers) don't have to necessarily come in 6'3, 240. We'll take a guy at 200 or 205 with the intention of putting 15 to 20 pounds on him and keep the athleticism he had when he was 200 pounds. It makes you a more athletic team and it allows us to recruit better athletes."
Kinsey has no problem with the new approach because of the faith he has in Hoeppner. After originally being recruited by Hoeppner at Miami of Ohio, Kinsey followed Hoeppner to Indiana for the chance to play for him.
"Coach Hep is a real good coach and I think the program has a real good future," said Kinsey. "He recruited me the entire way and when he came here I just thought it would be a good fit. I knew they were going to bulk me up and try to move me to linebacker. So I was ready when I got here to learn the position."
Being ready to learn was only the first step for Kinsey, even with summer camp over and the season about to start, he knows he is not completely ready.
"It is completely different," said Kinsey. "You have more reads at linebacker and different coverages. But I feel like it's a good fit and I'll be good there. I've talked with the older guys and they told me to just keep working at it. Everyone starts out the same and it's all a matter of how you do and how hard you work.
"There are a lot of guys making moves so we're kind of all going through the same thing and asking a lot of questions. It's been rough but I think we're all starting to catch on. We talk in film and try to see what's going on. It's all new to me, so I'm kind of slow on it, but it's all coming along."
Kinsey will do double duty while at Indiana and compete for the track team in the decathlon. While it may be tough playing two sports and going to class, Ricumstrict know the type of guy who can handle it.
"It depends on how they start out academically," said Ricumstrict. "If they're strong academically and dedicated to playing both sports then it's not an issue, if they're not then something has got to give."
Kinsey won the national title in the decathlon as a high school junior in July of 2004, scoring 6,814 points to easily outdistance the field a the USA Youth Outdoor Track and Field Championships. That point total would have placed him fourth at last year's Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field meet, and he's expected to be a huge addition to Coach Randy Heisler's track and field program.
Kinsey knows he is up to the challenge.
"They have a real good track program here at IU so I'm excited about it," said Kinsey. "I've talked to the coaches a lot and I'm ready to work hard in both. I talked to some of the other guys who play two sports a little bit and they say it can be hard to balance two sports. But I'm ready to give it a try and I'm looking forward to it."
Up To The Challenge
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