Jimmy Hall moves to LB; now option to start

Safety Jimmy Hall will move to linebacker, and is projected to take the outside starting spot as Collin Ellis moves to the middle. Drew Smith is in close competition.

Senior safety Jimmy Hall will transition to linebacker this season in a full-time role.

The versatile defensive threat is projected to start on the outside, with Collin Ellis moving to the middle linebacker spot. In need of replacing former standout Damien Proby, the Wildcats appear to have taken creative measures.

It's a decision that makes perfect sense. Throughout last season—and late in 2012—defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz attempted to use Hall in a variety of positions.

Hall played some nickelback, but then reverted to his backup safety role. At the time, Proby, Ellis and Ariguzo were the undisputed starters.

Looking for its third best linebacker, NU had a bevy of options. With some depth at the position, Hankwitz, Fitzgerald and Randy Bates could have taken three routes.

They could have scrolled down the two-deep to use redshirt sophomore Jaylen Prater, though he's clearly not considered among the top four or five options. They also could have moved Ellis while working Drew Smith into the rotation. (Smith still has the potential of landing the outside linebacker role. It's close.)

Instead, they turned to Hall in what qualifies as an inspired move from the coaching staff. Known for his hard-hitting edge and playmaking ability, Hall took some first-team reps at the position Wednesday.

Though we're quick to dismiss the importance of the "first day" and its implications on the lineup, they can usually be very telling. Aside from injuries, the guys taking first-team drills are considered the "ones" in spring, and Hall is among them.

Judging from the sudden conversion, and from the immediate faith the coaching staff placed in him, Hall will roll through spring ball—and ideally fall camp—as the starting outside linebacker.

It could be the first twist of many as Northwestern looks to improve.

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