Utah football: Once a QB, not always a QB in college
As a high school quarterback, Chad Manis entertained thoughts of playing for Washington, Baylor and Cal before committing to Utah. Now he is a backup linebacker.
DeVonte Christopher was a good enough high school quarterback to earn offers from Colorado, Nebraska and Stanford among other schools. He chose the Utes and is now a receiver.
Paul Kruger was an All-American quarterback when he was at Timpanogos High. Now he is in the NFL, but as a defender, not as a quarterback as he once envisioned.
Then of course there was Corbin Louks, a guy who went from competing for the starting QB job at Utah to being a possible redshirt safety to being history when he transferred to Nevada.
Why is it that so many quarterbacks the Utes recruit end up at other positions?
The Utes maintain it isn't a trend that affects just quarterbacks, as players come into college skilled at one position then switch to another frequently.
Often receivers become defensive backs, linebackers become safeties, cornerbacks become receivers and so forth.
It's all part of coach Kyle Whittingham's philosophy of getting the best athletes on the field. The quarterbacks may have special jerseys in practice to prevent them from being hit, but they have no such protections from being moved.
"We put players at the positions that we feel best fit them and the team," Whittingham said. "Some guys, it's very obvious what they are, others are natural athletes who can play a lot of positions."
Still, it's one thing to go from being a receiver to a corner; it seems like a much more drastic change for a quarterback to play another position. After all, quarterbacks are often groomed for their positions since their Pop Warner days. It can mess with their heads a bit to get to college and suddenly be told they are a linebacker or receiver, not a quarterback.
It can be a difficult transition, said Christopher, who first resisted the switch to receiver.
"You have to grow up fast being told you can't do what you want to do," he said. "It's a whole different mind-set of becoming a team player. It really separates the people who can make the transition from the people who don't."
Like Christopher, Manis has accepted his switch and finally feels at home with the defensive unit and has faith the coaches know what they are doing.
"Coach Whitt does a great job, and look at the QBs who have changed positions; Kruger is in the NFL," he said. "When he asked me to switch, I decided to help the team anyway I can."
Ultimately Louks decided that wasn't the route he wanted to take and transferred out of the Utah program and to Nevada -- to play safety, ironically.
Could his transfer and Utah's inclination for taking quarterbacks and making them something else hurt the Utes in recruiting?
The coaches don't believe it will, maintaining they don't make any promises other than giving high school players a chance to compete for playing time.
"You have to be honest with recruits," recruiting coordinator Morgan Scalley said. "I'm not going to sit there and tell a kid he is going to be a running back if in the back of our mind we're thinking he is going to be a great corner. If you do that, you get a bad reputation and that word gets around to high school coaches."
The Utes lost one quarterback last year because they failed to make such a promise. Kolby Gray, a quarterback out of Houston, signed with Pittsburgh instead of Utah.
Losing a recruit isn't a good feeling, but it's better than the alternative, Scalley said.
"You only back yourself in a corner when you start making promises like that," he said.
Besides, Scalley and the Utes believe their program is good enough that competing for them should be the reward, not the position.
That belief is ultimately one that Christopher embraced, which played a part in his decision to stay with the program rather than transferring like Louks.
For now, he has let go of his thoughts of playing quarterback, even though he still thinks like one, he admits.
"From the time I was 7 years old I've been thinking like a quarterback," he said. "I still go out there and look at the coverage and you still have that mind-set as a receiver of being a quarterback."
With Louks gone there is a chance he could have a special set of plays similar to the ones Louks had. It might be just enough to satisfy his QB urges.
"You don't know how much that would mean to me," he said.
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