Grissom adjusts to position switch

NORMAN, Okla. — It came as a surprise to some when news broke that redshirt sophomore Geneo Grissom had made the switch from defensive end to tight end.

With the departures of standouts Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis to graduation and early entry to the NFL draft, respectively, expectations were that the 6-foot-4, 247-pounder would be in the fold heavily at defensive end along with seniors David King and R.J. Washington. Plus, a season ago the coaching staff was raving on Grissom's progress before a foot injury stunted his season.

Now, Grissom sits atop the depth chart at the tight end position after a productive summer and fall camp, and the move appears to have paid off for everyone.

"I've seen him play defensive end against our guys and being as athletic as he was and knowing the depth we didn't have in our room, I thought it was a great move for him if he was excited about making it," tight ends and offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle said.

Admittedly, Grissom said he was surprised how open head coach Bob Stoops was to the idea when he asked to make the switch at the end of last school year.

"You guys know Coach Stoops. He's not a man of a lot of emotion, so basically I went up there and I asked him if I could take the switch and he's like, ‘Yeah, we'll try it out. We'll see what happens.' I didn't know what to expect when I went up to his office. But he gave me the opportunity and I'm pretty pleased with it," Grissom said.

Grissom joins an inexperienced tight end group that lacks a start between them. However, the Hutchinson, Kan., product pointed to the group's inexperience as a confidence booster during the switch.

"I feel like we could all learn together and learn from each other," Grissom said. "Mac [Taylor McNamara] is a great route runner, and Moose [Brannon Green] is a big, strong guy. So, we all work together and we all use our abilities to help each other get better."

Still, Grissom's success with the position change did not come easily.

"He hadn't played any offense really in high school. So, a lot of the terminology, reading secondary coverages, putting your hand out and blocking big defensive ends and all that kind of stuff is very new to him," Kittle said.

The Kansan's natural athletic ability has helped ease the transition, though. In fact, Grissom's hands and route running skills have come as a pleasant surprise for his coach.

"You never know until you throw to him. He's not as fast as the other guys, but he's got great hands. We're extremely happy with him," Kittle said.

Grissom is relishing the opportunity to put those hands to work, too.

"I love catching the ball. I mean, who doesn't like to score touchdowns? So, my eyes light up every time I see the ball coming towards me," Grissom said.

Also, Grissom is beginning to look and feel more comfortable in areas that were initially more difficult. Namely, run blocking and understanding schemes.

Fortunately for Grissom, he gets the advantage of facing off against talented, experienced defensive ends like King and Washington to speed up the learning curve.

"You put your hand down across from David King, it's just a different animal. You know what I mean? So that is a skill that takes quite a few reps," Kittle said. "Really, to earn your bread and butter at OU, you have to be able to block 280-pound defensive ends on a consistent basis."

Grissom said he has enjoyed the chance to go up against the defensive ends he used to share position battles with and admits the trash talk has been amped up a notch since he moved over to tight end.

"A little bit. For sure. They don't want to get beat by me. I don't want to get beat by them," Grissom said.

While things are very much still a work in progress for the Kansas native, his coach is excited about Grissom's potential growth.

"I think overall he's the guy you look at and he could be as close to the complete package if he puts it all together," Kittle said.

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