When Dino Babers arrived to take over the Syracuse Orange football program, he emphasized a clean slate for the roster. Players would get a chance to prove themselves and the best players would play.
What we may not have expected was the wide range of position changes that have occurred, however. Back in spring, new wide receivers were added to the depth chart, as were some players green to the defensive end spot. This summer, the trend has continued with a host of other switches, including Trey Dunkelberger heading back to tight end and a slew of potential switches alluded to in practice this Monday.
Some of the most notable moves have been in the last two weeks, where two defensive players — defensive back Scoop Bradshaw and linebacker-turned-defensive-end Kenneth Ruff -- started taking extensive snaps on offense. What we thought may have started off as cross-training could end up being a permanent thing now. While that’s surprising given defensive depth issues (especially on the line), the more shocking part has been what Babers said today:
Dino Babers believes Kenneth Ruff will play both ways at TE/DE. Says a lot about SU's depth.— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) August 25, 2016
No word on Bradshaw yet, though he’s certainly getting burn at wide out and Babers is willing to give any speedy option a shot there given how much personnel will cycle in and out.
So could both play two ways this year? And if so, would they do so regularly enough for us to really notice?
Ruff was slated to contend for the starting D-end gig, while Bradshaw figured to be a year away in the secondary. Syracuse hasn’t had players truly play two ways in awhile, but some of the more recent examples of players that sort of fit:
- DE Ron Thompson lined up as a running back in a sort-of tank package every so often, scoring a touchdown in 2014.
- DT Deon Goggins was a converted running back and lined up as a blocker several times during his career in 2011 and 2012.
- LB Doug Hogue started his career as a strong running back, before moving to the defensive side and playing well enough to climb the record books and get himself to the NFL. Not really a “two-way” guy, but a position change.
- Diamond Ferri (HI, BC!) rushed for nearly 450 yards from 2000-2004, with four TDs. He also managed six interceptions in his career. He’s still best known for haunting Boston College’s dreams for eternity.
- Tebucky Jones split time between defensive back and running back, excelling at both. He had nearly 500 yards rushing and eight scores, along with four INTs from 1994-1997.
... there’s probably more, but those are the easiest/most recent to identify. The two-way player has obviously disappeared as positions become more specialized and recruiting digs into true “fit” in a certain spot over rotating athletes around. In some ways, perhaps that’s a bummer, as it used to be a hallmark of the college game. But now, at least it makes it unique when a player can pull off the feat of playing on both sides of the ball.
Again, we’ll see how much burn both Ruff and Bradshaw get playing both ways. While Babers has called out Ruff’s potential, the depth issues at end are obviously critical, and the tight end position is equal parts underused in this offense and crowded on the depth chart right now. Bradshaw, if he plays, could end up participating far more on offense in year one, than defense.
Any other two-way players over the last 20ish years you’d like to point out? Share away in the comments.