In his weekly press conference Monday, Matt Luke announced that freshman running back Tylan Knight has moved to safety after a rash of injuries depleted the defensive secondary. (Armani Linton, who moved from defense to running back during the offseason, has also gone back to his original position).
It’s definitely a good thing to try promising athletes who are buried at deep positions elsewhere. Whether Knight works out at safety is certainly anyone’s guess. Given his 5’6, 170-pound frame, it’s easy to assume he’ll be too small to be effective on defense, but I’ll wait to see his production on the field. He could bring physicality and a motor to a defense severely lacking both, or he could flounder and move back to halfback.
Either way, what do you have to lose? Knight hasn’t been bad this season at running back, amassing 107 yards on 19 carries, but he also hasn’t been electric in the way some billed him during the preseason. By giving him a shot on defense, the coaching staff puts him in a position to showcase his skills behind someone other than Scottie Phillips.
Knight’s move got me thinking: who else would actually make sense to see on defense? I’m not talking about moving D.K. Metcalf to safety just for the hell of it—I’m talking about actual position moves that might actually benefit the team.
Here are four ideas.
Offensive guard Chandler Tuitt → Defensive Line
Tuitt would see a lot more time on defense than he does on an offense, where an established starting five and primary backups are set in stone. He’s 6’4, 316 and was billed as a physical guy coming out of high school. Move him to DT for a week or so and see what you’ve got.
Running back D.K. Buford → Linebacker
Buford has already had a stint on the defense and didn’t do much, but he’s not playing at all now at running back. Again, this is just putting him at a position of need to see if he could make a play or two in spot duty through the rest of the year. If nothing else, Buford is fast. That’s more than can be said for a lot of Ole Miss defenders.
Tight end Jason Pellerin → Linebacker or safety
Pellerin is a 6’4, 240-pound. athlete who’s already made one position switch—remember when Hugh Freeze regularly pulled Shea Patterson off the field and inserted Pellerin for obvious designed runs? If he’s that great of an athlete, why is he wasting away on the bench at a position where he’s third at best? As a former quarterback, he has to understand offenses and the way they work on some level; maybe that type of mindset would be helpful at safety where he could potentially anticipate what was coming. Sure, he doesn’t have the speed to keep up step for step with a receiver, but that’s alleviated at the safety position in ways it isn’t as a corner.
WR Elijah Moore → Cornerback
I get why Moore can’t be permanently moved to corner: he’ll be an important piece after all three of Ole Miss’ starting wide receivers leave this offseason. That being said, the guy is very shifty and could probably help the team in spots on third downs when the coaches could essentially tell him what he had to do on any given play. Obviously, this would lessen what they could actually call, with Moore mostly being asked to play man defense, but... I thought the whole goal was to simplify the defense.