Bryant, Wilson Adjusting Well to Position Changes

Bryant, Wilson Adjusting Well to Position Changes

KINGSTON, R.I. – Each year every team goes through personnel changes for a number of different reasons. Players may change positions because their skill sets are a better fit, or injuries may necessitate changes in order to address depth needs.

For Rhode Island, a handful of players have moved around the field. Junior Tez Wilson initially moved from linebacker to defensive end last spring. A week ago, redshirt sophomore Zoe Bryant (pictured) switched from defense to offense, going from linebacker to running back. Junior Nas Jones has primarily worked at safety since arriving on campus, but he has been getting reps at linebacker in recent days. Redshirt freshman Ja'Quan Buffaloe moved from receiver to running back, and senior Geoff Horwitz swapped from defensive tackle to tight end.

In most cases, the changes have been productive. Wilson has been running with the first unit at defensive end every day in camp, lining up opposite fellow end Jose Duncan to give the Rams more speed off the edge of the line.

"Moving from linebacker to defensive end wasn't too much of a big difference," said Wilson, who started nine of the 11 games he played at outside linebacker last season. "The biggest thing is that being at defensive end, everything is moving faster at the snap. At linebacker, you have to make the read and step. At defensive end, you have to get straight after the lineman."

While the position change is more subtle for Wilson, Bryant's position change is dramatic. A year ago, he appeared in 10 games at linebacker, making five starts. When he arrived in Kingston, he was a safety, who then shifted to linebacker. Now he's in position to be a major contributor for Rhode Island's ground attack. Not that the position is entirely new. Coming out of high school, Bryant was the No. 1 rated running back in New Jersey, according to the N.J. McCarthy Report. This came after a senior season in which he ran for 1,655 yards and a school-record 25 touchdown for Hopewell Valley.

"The transition to offense is a lot like riding a bike," Bryant said. "It's uncomfortable at first and you have to knock some of the rust off, but you get back into it real quick. Guys like Harold Cooper and T.J. Anderson have helped make it real easy. They work me through drills and the reads. (running backs) Coach (Jim) Miceli makes everything really easy too."

Both Wilson and Bryant pointed to the leadership of seniors for helping them make the transitions to new spots a little smoother.

"Before practices and in meetings, I talk with Jose Duncan and Mike Ezirike a lot to see what I can do better to help not only myself, but the entire defensive line," Wilson said. "Jose is an all-conference player from last season, and he knows the defense in and out. It's a really good situation for me to be able to learn from guys like Jose Duncan and Mike Ezirike."

Similarly, Bryant has a pair of fourth-year backs in Harold Cooper and T.J. Anderson to lean on.

"I sit right next to Coop in meetings, and whenever I can out on the practice field, I'm standing next to him," Bryant said. "Off the field, in the locker room, I ask him questions all the time. Why did he do this? What was the thought behind that decision? What is the better option on this play? A whole bunch of things.

"T.J.'s locker is right across from mine, so we are in the playbook together before practice all the time. If after a meeting or practice, I am not clear on something, I have been able to ask him anything."

Just a week into his position change, the early returns are strong for Bryant. He has broken off a handful of long plays, both carrying the ball or catching it out of the backfield.

"Coming in here and switching to play defense, I didn't mind it at all. But offense has always been my love," Bryant said. "I was raised playing offense, and I love having the ball in my hand. You don't lose that ability to make plays. It's more a matter of figuring out where you fit in best, and for me, it's good to be back on offense."