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Key Position Changes Around College Football in 2016

Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers

The start of a new college football season is just weeks away. This fall a number of players will be taking on a brand new position in a game for the first time, and many could play a key role in their respective teams’ chances to win some big games.

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Here is a look at 10 of the more notable position changes being made around the college football world this fall.

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan (from Defensive Back to Linebacker)

Peppers came to Michigan with the ability to play multiple positions, which he has certainly done. In 2016, however, Peppers will be dialing in more as the Wolverines’ Sam linebacker. It is a role he is embracing as a challenge as he looks to be the best Sam linebacker ever coached by defensive coordinator Don Brown. With his athletic skill and potential, Peppers could very well meet that challenge with flying colors. Look for Peppers to be all around the field causing problems for opposing offenses, whether that means bringing pressure, clamping down on a running back in the open field, or blanketing someone in coverage.

Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama (from Guard to Center)

Alabama’s offensive lines have been a big reason why the Crimson Tide have been so successful in recent years. Look no farther than last season, when the Alabama line took home the inaugural Joe Moore Award. Last season, Pierschbacher was a part of that award-winning line (SEC All-Freshman guard), but this year he makes a slight position switch to anchor the middle. This spring he moved to the center position, meaning he has been working on his snapping skills and started to take on a new leadership role. He’ll be replacing Rimington Trophy winner Ryan Kelly, but Pierschbacher should be ready to carry the weight of the position in the fall.

Pat Elflein, Ohio State (from Guard to Center)

Ohio State’s offensive line is undergoing quite a bit of change this season, but Eflein is still around to keep things in order as much as possible. The talented offensive lineman is embracing a new role as a senior by taking over at center. The extra workload has been one Eflein has embraced in preparing for the upcoming season, and it is a position he has some familiarity with after serving as a backup center for the past couple of seasons.

Mason Cole, Michigan (from Left Tackle to Center)

Michigan’s Cole also is making the switch to center this fall. Cole started this transition in the spring and has been brushing up on his snapping abilities after being asked to make the switch by offensive line coach Tim Drevno. Cole started every game at left tackle as a true freshman but now is picking up the position he has actually been working on to some degree for a year now. The hope is that Cole will be a quick learner, as success at his new position could have a positive trickle-down effect for the rest of the Wolverines’ offensive line.

DeVon Edwards, Duke (from Safety to Defensive Back)

Duke has developed a pretty talented secondary in recent years, with Edwards expected to lead the way this fall. The senior is making a slight transition from safety to defensive back to help the back end of the Blue Devils’ defense, a chance that Edwards should handle with little trouble because of his versatility. Edwards will continue to play a huge role on Duke’s special teams, but he could elevate his game even more by creating some plays at the defensive back position.

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Oren Burks, Vanderbilt (from Safety to Linebacker)

A minor technicality here but Burks has been shifted around from safety and linebacker during his time with the Commodores. This season is he expected to take on a more defined role as the defense’s “Star” position player. The position is essentially a hybrid of a linebacker and safety, but it falls in the middle of Vanderbilt’s defense so we’ll go ahead and classify Burks as a linebacker. Regardless of the definition, Burks should prosper in his new, more defined role, which will only help solidify Vanderbilt’s defense.

Paul Magloire, Arizona (from Safety to Linebacker)

Magloire was already known to be a blend of linebacker and safety since joining the Wildcats, but he will now be used primarily in heart of the defense. This will give Magloire a better opportunity to get in the ear of the quarterback, a role he seems to cherish, and be a definitive leader of the defense. Magloire will be looked to create plays off the edge, but he also will get opportunities to drop back in coverage from his new position and pose multiple threats to the opposition.

Michiah Quick, Oklahoma (from Wide Receiver to Defensive Back)

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops needed a little bit of size and speed to help out his secondary. At the end of spring practice, Stoops decided to move Quick from wide receiver to defensive back, a position he played in high school. This is actually the position Stoops planned on using Quick when he was recruiting the Fresno, Calif., product, but it took a few years to get to this point. If the Sooners do feel they have a strong need for some help at receiver, Quick could switch sides again, but for now he will likely fill a starting role on defense.

Ishmael Adams, UCLA (from Defensive Back to Wide Receiver)

Perhaps one of the more noteworthy position changes in college football will be made by Adams. The first-team All-Pac-12 player was asked by head coach Jim Mora to help out the offense by bringing some of his playmaking skills to the wide receiver position. Being the team player Adams is, he obliged. If Adams can torch opposing defenders the way he has receivers at times, UCLA could have a new reliable option for young quarterback Josh Rosen to connect with this fall, and that could be dangerous for the Bruins’ foes.

Devin White, LSU (from Running Back to Linebacker)

Though he has yet to see a down of action at LSU, thus making this position change a bit of a technicality, it is not to be overlooked. LSU is clearly set at the running back position with Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette leading the charge, and the Tigers had a bit of a depth concern at linebacker. Moving White from a deep position to one in need should be a natural transition for the former four-star recruit, as he played both running back and linebacker in high school. He could even wind up starting at his new position this fall even though LSU’s defense returns plenty of experience.

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.