The Vikings have shown an interest in a prospect still green at his latest position.
Georgia Southern's J.J. Wilcox spent the first three seasons of his college career as a wide receiver and slotback (running back). When the coaching staff asked him to move to safety for his senior season, he obliged and now he is solidly on the radar of NFL teams, including the Vikings, who scheduled a formal interview with Wilcox at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In 2012, he was named to the All-Southern Conference first team by the league's coaches and second team by the media. He at least did enough in his first season on defense to garner an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he also worked at safety.
So far, he has done a solid job in making a difficult transition at the tail end of his college career.
"At the beginning, it was tough. Running full speed forward to now backpedaling full speed has definitely been a challenge, but I love challenges," Wilcox said at the combine. "It brings the best out of you. Hard work always pays off. I work hard. My teammates, my coaching staff, my family back home helped me with this progress to where I'm at now."
Where he's at is in the mix to be a mid-round draft selection, quite an ascent for a player just getting used to defense. It didn't take him long to be productive, however, and he was second on the Eagles with 88 tackles last year, intercepted two passes and also returned 31 kicks for 780 yards (25.2-yard average).
"Just hard work. Coming from a smaller school and doing all of this in one year is definitely because of the hard work," Wilcox said. "My teammates put me in a position to make plays and my coaching staff worked with me day in and day out. It wasn't me by myself. I've been blessed."
He will also have to be on the fast track in the NFL. While he showed good tackling skills in college, there are questions about his speed and whether he can keep up with NFL receivers, but he doesn't expect a long adaptation period.
"Probably not long, just like it has in college. You just have to go in there, get your mind right, get around the right people, get around the right coaching staff and great players and you'll either catch up or get left behind," he said. "I definitely don't want to get left behind so I'm going to go in there, work hard and surround myself around the best talent — the veterans — and improve my game."
Interestingly, his experience on the offensive side of the ball may help him in an NFL where offenses increasingly seem to be looking for opportunities to run the option. Wilcox is familiar with the option offense from his days on both sides of the ball.
"The triple option, I can sleep and still run it. I still have some memories on it. I think it plays in my favor," he said. "I see the league kind of turning to kind of a zone-read type of offense now with (San Francisco QB Colin) Kaepernick and all the other guys. I feel like it's playing in my favor a little bit."
Wilcox said he looked toward Charles Woodson because of his experience playing both offense and defense in college. He cited Woodson's athleticism and work ethic, the latter being a mantra for Wilcox.
"I'd definitely say the sky's the limit with me. I'm definitely
on the incline. I feel like I can always improve my game. With just one year, I'll progress just more and more and more," he said. "I don't think my potential has reached its peak yet but I'm definitely anxious to get into the NFL and see what I can do."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings show interest in raw defender
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