It’s a luxury for a football coach to have players willing to switch positions for the benefit of the team.
For Oklahoma, Geneo Grissom is the best example of that type of player. After coming to Norman as a defensive end out of high school, Grissom played a season there, switched to tight end, switched back to defensive end, and will now finish his career at outside linebacker.
The Sooners’ defensive alignment switch last season allowed Oklahoma to showcase the plethora of athleticism on that side of the ball. Linebacker Eric Striker burst onto the scene coming off the edge as a pass-rushing specialist. This year, Grissom is going to have the opportunity to do the same.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Grissom said of the position switch. “It’s every defensive end’s dream to pick his hand up off the ground and stand up and come off the edge and drop into coverage a little bit as well.”
Grissom’s athleticism was on full display last season from the defensive end position. Grissom had an interception return for a touchdown against Texas and had two fumble recoveries and returns against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, including the clinching touchdown.
“They (coaches) know the right place to put Geneo; they’ve seen his athleticism and the strength coaches know his strengths and weaknesses so they thought the best place for him,” defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said. “Wherever the coaches put him, that’s what’s best for him and he’s going to succeed regardless because he’s an athlete.”
The move is beneficial across the board, but the possibility of forcing more turnovers and trying to score more touchdowns may have pushed Grissom toward making the change. After all, scoring touchdowns as a defender is quite enticing.
“I don’t know, maybe,” defensive back Julian Wilson said with a laugh. “You’d have to ask him. I hope he does. I’ll take six points on defense.”
In all seriousness, Grissom does have a new goal this season that involves creating turnovers.
“I’ve given myself a new slot on my goal list,” Grissom said. “I want to get myself three or four picks this year. That’s something I wouldn’t have ever imagined being part of my goals going into a season.”
Grissom isn’t the only player making a position switch this offseason, as Blake Bell is making the move from quarterback to tight end. Since Grissom made that switch before, he knows exactly what Bell is going through and experiencing.
“He’s got a lot of defensive linemen that he’s going to have to learn to beat but it’s only going to be great practice if he’s able to conquer that goal and then he’ll be a great tight end,” Grissom said. “He’s looking good. He’s got good feet—he’s already got good feet from playing quarterback. He’s a baller, he wants to be on the field and he’s going to do what it takes to make it happen.”
Although both players made the switch from completely different positions, Grissom said the move is probably slightly easier for Bell since Bell is moving to another offensive position.
“He definitely has a better understanding of offensive schemes as a quarterback and understanding where he has to be on the field,” Grissom said. “Coming from the defensive side, I’m just used to sacking the quarterback so I would give him that advantage.”
Grissom will end his career without spending two consecutive seasons in the same position on the field. It’s a pretty remarkable feat at a major college football program, but one that speaks to his flexibility and willingness to do whatever it takes to help the Sooners win games.
“This group of guys, we’re never satisfied; we’re always striving toward getting better and perfecting our crafts,” Grissom said. “We have a hard working bunch of kids and we’re ready to prove everybody that Oklahoma football is back. We’re looking to win a national championship this year.”