While position changes on the same side of the ball are common, moves from one side to the other are less prevalent. Still, the number of such moves is growing, and West Virginia is a leading practitioner of the movement.
One of the recruiting maxims of the Mountianeer staff is that they want players who "project" to more than one position if at all possible. That strategy gives the coaching staff more flexibility in building the team, and also allows the player a better chance to get on the field if his first position doesn't pan out.
One player who fits all of these criteria is incoming freshman Mortty Ivy of Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa. The thickly built Ivy was a star quarterback at Gateway, but began playing safety as a junior, where he quickly grabbed the attention of WVU's coaching staff. He expects to start out at that position, and could even move to linebacker if he adds a few more pounds.
"I know my future is on the defensive side of the ball," Ivy told BlueGoldNews.com last year after committing to the Mountaineers. "I love to hit, and I love to make plays on defense to get the ball back for my team."
Ivy did just that in last month's Big 33 game, when he recovered a kickoff and instinctively headed downfield.
"Our coach called a spoke kick to the right, and it bounced off a lineman's leg," Ivy recounted. "I just took and tried to run with it."
Of course, the transition from offense to defense isn't without its drawbacks for Ivy personally. The biggest is the lack of having the ball in your hands, something Ivy ruefully admits he will miss.
"It was nice to get my hands on the ball again," Ivy said with a smile as he recounted the recovery and run. "But, I'll learn the new positions, and I just have to produce. I want to play on special teams too. Running down on kicks is great. Whatever I can do to help, I will."
Another steep hill to climb in changing positions is learning to do things naturally at the new position. For example, at quarterback, Ivy would have already been comfortable with skills such as his stance, footwork and ballhandling. As a safety with just two years' experience (and none at outside linebacker) Ivy will be in a major learning mode early in his career as he works to master fundamentals of the position.
There's no doubt that the impressive Pennsylvanian has the skills to make the transition. Give him ten more pounds, and linebacker is a distinct possibility. However, having to think about all the little things at a new spot can radically affect the quality of an athlete's play. Actions that should be natural are often mechanical at first, which can cause frustration and a drop-off in performance levels. However, given time, many players thrive at their new spots, thus justifying those "projections" made years earlier.
Ivy says he hasn't thought much about the transition, however. He maintained that he just wants to play and help the team, no matter the number on his jersey or spot in the lineup.
"I just have have to go to the next level and do my best there," the modest Ivy said after wrapping up his high school career.
No matter where Ivy winds up, his best may end up being pretty good.