Ryan Baum didn't really have much of a choice. After four years in the program, most of which was spent on special teams, Baum entered the fall with zero career receptions and 46 career tackles. So when starting safety James Smith was injured last week it seemed like a natural switch to move the wide receiver to the other side of the ball and give the safety position a shot.
"It was Mac's idea. After the morning practice (last Thursday) I got told 10 minutes before the afternoon practice that I was being switched over, but I didn't have a problem with it," Baum said.
The senior from nearby Gilbert
hadn't played one snap on defense since he had stepped foot on campus. But,
that's not to say the coaching staff hadn't thought about the move earlier in
his time at
"(Chris) Ash tried to get me here (safety position) the first day I walked in, but I said I wanted to play offense…it's amazing how that switches in five years," Baum said with a grin on his face.
Although it is very early in Baum's development in the defensive backfield, he credits the coaching staff for making it a seamless transition.
"It's a lot different, I haven't played defense since high school. It's taking me a while to pick up the base stuff. But once you get the defense it's a simple defense, you just have to know what you are doing and get to the right spot. It's been a lot easier to pick up than I thought it was going to be. The coaches here make it a lot easier to pick things up, make it as simple as possible, and then build on from that," Baum said.
It hasn't been just the coaches
that have aided the transition for Baum. Three years as
"Punt coverage was the best thing for me. You're running down there full speed 50 yards and you have to be able to break down and stay in front of the guy. On defense, you will be within 10, 15 yards from the ball and you're not running down with your head cut-off, so that makes it easy to carry over," Baum said.
And any time Baum can hit somebody, he considers it a good day.
"It's great, this gives me more opportunity. Instead of running down the field 50 yards, I'm not worried about somebody coming from behind me and jacking me in the head. I'm the guy hitting people now," Baum said.
The versatile Baum has another weapon in his mental arsenal to help his knowledge of the safety position. His years at wide receiver have proved very valuable in the three days he's been on the other side.
"In certain situations you can tell what the offense wants to do. Double moves, or short stuff, slants, it makes it easier to know what kind of depth you need. Depth is the best thing at strong safety, you don't want anything to get behind you," Baum said.
And his added knowledge has also disrupted a few plays in practice; As Austin Flynn can attest.
"We have to change up our audible calls, because he knows them all," Flynn said.
"They were running two minute (drill) and they were yelling these things out and I was telling the DB's what they are running," Baum said.
Baum is now completely healthy after recovering from a season-ending knee injury suffered in the Baylor game last year. In fact, the switch has Baum feeling like he is a teenager again.
"Today felt like I was back in high school, running around the field chasing down running backs. But I felt a lot more comfortable that I had earlier in the week. I was able to call out calls and know what I was doing, without relying on somebody else telling me," Baum said.
Baum continues to compete for the #1 spot as the Cyclones' punt returner and will also be a prominent part of the kick and punt coverage again this fall.