After a 3-9 campaign in which CSU football struggled both offensively and defensively to find consistent productivity, change has been the theme of this spring.
Seven players from last yearâ€™s squad have moved to different positions based on need and the hopes of better utilizing their talents.
Two-year starter Elijah-Blu Smith will play his senior season at cornerback instead of safety. Smith committed to the Rams as a cornerback out of high school, so the new position will not be completely foreign.
The move back to corner was no surprise to Smith who said he had been dropping hints to coach Steve Fairchild since the 2010 season ended.
â€œThatâ€™s totally what I wanted because I came here as a corner,â€ Smith said. â€œItâ€™s definitely exciting for me to go back and play a position that I came here to play and have fun at it.â€
Smith was a key component of the defense over the last two years, including one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries last year, but he is best known for his big hit on former CU-Boulder wide receiver Scotty McKnight in 2009.
While capable at safety, Smith sees the move to cornerback as an opportunity to incorporate the style of football he likes to play â€” physical.
â€œItâ€™s just me, a guy and a sideline, so I like that concept,â€ he said. â€œI like to play aggressive.â€
The hardest part about the transition back to corner is not so much mental for Smith but rather the conditioning.
â€œThereâ€™s some getting used to because of the constant running, more than I did at safety,â€ Smith said. â€œI feel like Iâ€™m getting in better shape, so I definitely like it.â€
For sophomore Tony Drake, the change he was asked to make takes him to more unfamiliar territory.
Drake was recruited as a running back but was moved over to wide receiver last season in an attempt to capitalize on his speed and open field ability, much like junior Lou Greenwood the year prior.
Learning the playbook for a new position and the skills required to be successful in the middle of the season made it difficult for Drake to have much success.
â€œI feel like itâ€™s a position that took learning, a lot of studying and coaching, but as the season progressed itâ€™s something that I got better at and felt comfortable with,â€ Drake said.
Drake said he was not sure last year whether the position change was permanent but was willing to play anywhere the coaches felt he could help the team.
He now has an entire offseason to further advance his game.
â€œI think heâ€™s in the process of (improving) â€¦ and I think thatâ€™s going to take some time,â€ Fairchild said. â€œI think heâ€™s making progress.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at email@example.com.