In order to fill the new fullback position in the offense, Tommy Tuberville pulled from an unusual position group to make it happen.
CINCINNATI -- Patrick Coyne proudly discusses his tradition as a fullback and running back. Sure, the standout from Hamilton Badin ranked as the No. 17 dual threat QB nationally by Rivals.com upon arriving at UC, but as the coaches asked him to move to the newly created fullback position in the offense, he could draw on his past.
He could also draw on his astute mastery of sarcasm.
"I played running back and fullback until seventh grade," Coyne said, tongue in cheek. "That's the last time. I played guard in third grade. I think that's the closest thing to it. All the way back in third grade, I think it carries over. Everyone is about two feet taller and 200 pounds heavier."
The concept of moving a quarterback to the fullback/tight end position may seem like a joke, but in the world of fitting old pieces into new parts thinking outside the pocket doesn't arrive on a whim, it arrives with necessity.
Tommy Tuberville and the pro-style offense reintroduces the fullback position to the offense for the first time since Mark Dantonio roamed the sideline. When analyzing the current players capable of handling a move, Tuberville spotted candidates with the skill set to make a successful conversion - regardless of position.
That meant Coyne, the redshirt sophomore stuck in a quagmire of quarterbacks on the depth chart, but the biggest of the bunch, could increase him frame and trade the no-contact red jersey for that all-contact black.. Despite being a bit shocked at first, he happily responded to a chance at playing time by adding 20 pounds - he's now up to 244 - and lugging a different attitude into the Sheakly Athletics Center.
"It's the complete opposite end of the spectrum than playing quarterback," Coyne said. "It definitely goes from mentally strenuous to completely physically strenuous. It's definitely more physical, I'll tell you that. I don't miss (the red jersey) at all. It's good getting in there and mixing it up, getting to experience what all the other guys do every day which you didn't get to, the soreness every day."
While Coyne endured true soreness for the first time following the spring's first scrimmage on Saturday, he was joined at the position by a player all too accustomed to new experiences in spring football. Jordan Luallen has joined Coyne in the backfield in what appears to be his journey to play all 22 positions at career. He's previously played quarterback, wide receiver, running back and linebacker.
Now, he can check off fullback and tight end.
"Camp is pretty much been a mystery to me at this point," Luallen said. "This is my sixth one and this is my fifth position. It's pretty much a new adventure every time."
Don't expect the latest position change to erase Luallen's patented smile.
"I'm great with it," said Luallen, whose also joined by former linebacker E.J. Junior at the position. "Anything to help the team. I think I've kind of showed that over my career. Anything they've asked me to do I've done. This is just another step in that. If I can help the team win by doing this then I am happy to do it."
Happy? Yes. Learning? Oh yes.
Tuberville didn't expect the transition to be smooth. The first scrimmage showed a position group trailing as far behind in the technique department as any on the team, but far ahead of the curve mentally. Really, for a couple of heady former quarterbacks, the results make sense.
"It's just different," Tuberville said. "What the fullback has to do is either cleans up on pass protection someone we didn't block or has an assignment on a blitz he has to protect. They knew what to do it was just being able to be physical at the point of attack when your mind is spinning 100 miles per hour or so."
The spinning likely won't stop for a while. Nor will living in the training, dining and weight rooms. In order for these players to be sizeable enough to take on B1G linebackers on Aug. 31, the growth of the last few months must continue, particularly for Luallen, whose tipping the scales at 232 after gaining 14 pounds this offseason.
"Obviously I need to get bigger," said Luallen, who does boast his bench press numbers to be on par with most of his competition around 400 pounds. "I'm the smallest guy in the room right now. If I can keep getting bigger, get my shoulders stronger I'll be ready to block those guys."
Once they begin to drop the hammer from the fullback position, perhaps the first fullback pass play in UC history will be right around the corner? Incredibly, there would be a battle to see who gets the nod to throw it.
"I don't think we could have a double fullback pass," Coyne said, "but we are in thick competition for it right now."
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