Tuesday, March 27, 2007

D.J. now a W.R.

The big story today was supposed to be Tyler Lorenzen's first meetings with the media since spring practice began. Instead, you'll be reading all about D.J. Hernandez's move to wide receiver in the state papers.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the maneuver.

Randy Edsall said the move was Hernandez's idea, something D.J. first came to him about before spring practice even started. Edsall, who had also been thinking about a possible position switch, told Hernandez he wanted him to remain at quarterback through the first scrimmage. The plan was that after those first six practices, if D.J. fell behind Tyler Lorenzen and Dennis Brown in the race, then the move would be made.

That's exactly what happened. After playing QB during Saturday's scrimmage, Hernandez was in Edsall's office at 7 a.m. Monday to discuss a course of action. During Tuesday's practice, Hernandez was lined up at receiver.

The move has nothing to do with injuries at wide receiver, Edsall reiterated (receiver Ellis Gaulden will miss about six months with ligament damage to his foot, Kevin Poles has missed time with a hamstring). It was something Hernandez wanted to do because it gives him his best opportunity to contribute this season. He will still be the team's third-string quarterback -- Edsall said the plan is to redshirt incoming frosh Cody Endres -- but unless there are injuries to Lorenzen and Dennis Brown, Hernandez won't take any more snaps at quarterback this season. He's a full-time wide receiver.

Hernandez, of course, wasn't available for comment. His turn to speak to the media was two weeks ago. But Edsall and Lorenzen both talked about the switch.

"His big thing is he's a competitor and he wants to play," Edsall said. "He felt if he was going to be the third guy, he wanted the opportunity to get on the field and play. He felt at wide receiver that would be the opportunity for him to do that. I told D.J. at the time to let it run its course through six practices.

Edsall mentioned it was the same situation as when Keron Henry was switched from QB to receiver a few years ago.

"As a coach, you want (a player) to have to see it for themsevles. If they see if for themselves, they come to you. I told the coaches before the spring I am not going to approach him.
I said we're going to let this thing play out and see where it stands. When he came to me about it, that's when I put my plan into effect where it's lets go through x number of days and evaluate it. He evaluated it as well and he and I were both on the same page."

Lorenzen, who has worked closely with Hernandez in learning the offense, even threw passes as D.J. worked on his routes back in January. Now, it's Lorenzen, who was moved from QB to WR at Iowa State three years ago, who has given some advice to Hernandez about switching positions.

"I told him that first practice, you're going to be tired," Lorenzen said. "I remember my first practice (at receiver) I was dead. He was a little winded, but I'll go back (to the locker room) and see how he's doing now.

Lorenzen said he expects the transition for Hernandez to be smooth.

"(Hernandez) knows the offense, he knows the protections, he knows what I'm supposed to be doing," Lorenzen added. "I don't have to tell him anything, he already knows and is a step ahead. D.J. is a tremendous athlete, and he'll do fine."

As for how Hernandez performed on his first day, well, let's just say he got a little clue as to how it would be when he stepped into the pre-practice wide receivers meeting. The defensive backs had snuck in earlier and hung a sign with Hernandez's number 14 in the middle of a bullseye.

"They have so much respect for him, I think that's what that shows," Edsall said. "I think they thought they might be able to take advantage of him his first day, but they found out he's a tremendous athlete and a tremendous competitor."

Hernandez had his moments in practice, catching a couple of quick outs and dancing past defenders for nice gains like we've seen so many times before with his QB scrambles. But he also got a couple of 'welcome to wide receiver' hits from Darius Butler.

The first came after an interception by Robert Vaughn. As Vaughn was making his return, Butler leveled an unsuspecting Hernandez with a block, sending him flat as a pancake and illiciting cheers from the defensive unit.

About 20 minutes later, a pass from Lorenzen heading Hernandez's way hit D.J. square in the face mask. In the moment Hernandez staggered back as the ball bounced out of bounds, Butler came in again and laid the wood -- once again sending the newest receiver to his back.

"I tell you what, 'But' got him pretty good," Edsall said. "But I'm sure they're in there right now sharing a laugh about it."

A few other notes and observations from Tuesday:

  • Dan Ryan was dressed, and though he didn't participate in contact drills he did sprints at the end of practice. He said though he's disappointed at his injury, a class three ankle sprain, he's aiming to be ready to play in the spring game next month.

  • Trey Tonsing is out for the rest of the spring with a broken fifth metatarsal bone in his foot, suffered during a drill last Thursday. He was on crutches Tuesday. "It's a six week (recovery period), but he should be fine," Edsall said.

  • Cody Brown won't be practicing on Tuesday's and Thursday's because of academic issues. He's still eligible, but Edsall has warned him to get the books in order or it could lead to bigger problems.

  • Dennis Brown caught an earful from Edsall for telegraphing his passes. "Stop staring everything down!" Edsall said.

  • Injured free safety Glen Mourning also caught Edsall's wrath. "Hey Glen! Are you practing today?," Edsall bellowed. "I thought you were practicing today!" When Mourning indicated he wasn't practicing, Edsall responded "You should go play tiddleywinks."

More tomorrow


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