'Vacation' Over; Ware Moves Back to LB

RALEIGH, N.C. -- John Ware called it a vacation. Tom O'Brien called it an experiment. Whatever you want to call it, Ware's time at strong safety officially came to an end when fall practice started up last week.

John Ware called it a vacation. Tom O'Brien called it an experiment. Whatever you want to call it, Ware's time at strong safety officially came to an end when fall practice started up last week.

"John is back at linebacker," O'Brien said. "The spring experiment is over, and we are putting him back at linebacker."

Ware, a linebacker who was a heavy contributor on special teams and took snaps at linebacker in all 12 games last season, was moved to strong safety during spring practice. But with the linebackers returning only two players with significant game experience at the position – Nate Irving and Ray Michel – the coaches wanted Ware to return to the position where he spent the first two years of his college career.

Ware was happy to oblige.

"It wasn't really a big deal," Ware said. "I've been there since my freshman year. It was really like I took a vacation and came right back.

"I found out about it right before we started camp. It was a couple days before camp, but it was like 'we need somebody at linebacker' so I'll go back. I'll play whatever, doesn't really matter. I'm just here to help the team."

As a linebacker last season, Ware recorded 30 tackles in 215 snaps, including a career-high five tackles against Louisville. Despite the focus he put into learning a new position in the spring, the redshirt sophomore wasn't concerned with his move back to the front seven.

"The concepts are really the same."

"Strong safety and linebacker are kind of the same thing," Ware said. "I'm playing 'SAM' [linebacker]... the concepts are really the same. It's just that 'SAM' plays up on the line of scrimmage, but he's still out in space covering wide receivers and stuff like that."

The ‘SAM', or strongside linebacker, usually lines up opposite the tight end and often ends up covering the tight end or even a wide receiver on passing plays. According to Ware, his time at strong safety greatly improved his man-to-man cover skills.

"My man-to-man skills got better, working with coach Reed," Ware said. "Doing those DB drills, my feet got a lot better."

Ware didn't forget how to be a linebacker, but he developed his pass coverage fundamentals, particularly in open space. His footwork has improved, enabling him to stay with quicker players that he wasn't able to defend earlier in his Wolfpack career.

"Those fast guys, the wide receivers and things, my freshman and sophomore year I wouldn't have been able to hang with those guys until after I made the switch to strong safety and my footwork got better. Now you can put me out in space with anybody."

As it stands now, he'll be competing with senior Robbie Leonard, a converted safety, and redshirt freshman Audie Cole for playing time at the strongside linebacker position.


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