Kelson Lands at FS (For Now)

Journeyman Drew Kelson is playing exclusively at free safety while Marcus Griffin, the only returning starter from last year's Texas secondary, has been a swingman between both safety positions, Co-Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina said Wednesday.

Griffin started 10 games at FS last season while Kelson has played, well, nearly everywhere. Recruited as a prototypical SS, Kelson was projected to start at WLB in 2006 before suffering a high ankle sprain just before the season-opener. He began this spring at SS, but his versatility -- as well as an abundance of raw talent at SS -- led to one more position change for Kelson. Meanwhile, Griffin has shown he is just as adept at holding down both safety positions.

"Marcus can play 'strong' and 'free'," Akina said. "(Sophomore) Robert Joseph and (RS-sophomore) Ishie Oduegwu are younger players and I've got to get them settled in to a position. We've got them just playing 'strong' and Drew is just playing 'free'. Marcus can go either way, but we've got to figure out where the rest of them go. If our two best safeties are Drew and Marcus, do we kick Marcus back over (to FS)? We have to make those decisions, much like we did with (Nathan) Vasher and (Ahmad) Brooks when they were corners and then it made sense for them to be on the sidelines. Let's get those guys on the field. That's why coach (Mack) Brown pays me."

Kelson appeared in one game as a DB and two games at RB as a true freshman in 2004. He switched from SS to WLB as a sophomore, starting the first three games of the season in place of Robert Killebrew. That year, Kelson rose to the occasion in the biggest games of the national championship campaign. He forced a late fumble at No. 4 Ohio State to preserve Texas' 25-22 comeback. He notched a career-best six tackles against No. 10 Texas Tech. He recorded an INT at Texas A&M. He basically knocked Colorado QB Joel Klatt out of football in the Big 12 Conference championship game. He ran stride-for-stride with Heisman-winning RB Reggie Bush in the 41-38 Rose Bowl win over USC, and also had four tackles, a forced fumble and what appeared to be an INT (officially recorded as a PBU).

"It was an unselfish move when he made the move his freshman year to play tailback," Akina continued. "That's the model you're looking for. It was just an unselfish move for a football player to do to help the team. He did not come here to be a tailback. He came here to play safety. But we had a crisis there (when the Horns lost the services of RB Selvin Young and RB Erik Hardeman) and Drew went there with a smile on his face. He didn't play much, but he saved legs. It kept somebody (namely, Cedric Benson) from getting hit late in the game. Then he finally got back in the secondary and was feeling comfortable there, and we had a crisis at linebacker. But I just thought with the five guys we had back there (Michael Huff, Michael Griffin, Cedric Griffin, Tarell Brown, Aaron Ross), and Marcus was emerging as the sixth guy, to move him from linebacker. Once again, it was a very unselfish move and it helped us win some games."

In some ways, Kelson's move back to the secondary was innate for the former Parade All-American from Houston Lamar. But, Kelson assures us, it isn't like learning how to ride a bike.

"You can see so much more at the safety position than you do at linebacker," Kelson told Inside Texas. "It moves faster as linebacker. You're able to see it and get there quick whereas, at safety, you're able to see so many things that can distract you. You have to learn to be disciplined with your eyes. You have to be accountable and get to your responsibility."

It appeared that Kelson had finally settled in at safety during last Saturday's scrimmage, Akina concluded. And it shapes up, potentially, as the kind of breakout season that Aaron Ross finally enjoyed as the 2006 Thorpe Award winner.

"He had to get back into the feel of playing in space again," Akina said. "There's some different techniques, and he's been patient with it. You could see after our last scrimmage that he really started to move forward and showing up again."

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