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March 3, 2014
By the Numbers: Position moves through the years
Last week, with the dawn of spring practice, head coach Brady Boke announced a number of position changes, some significant, with players jumping sides of the ball, and some less so.
Position changes are nothing new. According to Michigan's official archives, 34 players have earned a varsity letter at two different positions since 1994 (the list does not include switches along the offensive line as the database lists every lineman as OL).
One of the most famous, and most beneficial, was that of Ian Gold, who jumped from running back to linebacker in 1997 much to his chagrin.
"I told Ian when we recruited him, 'I want the ability to move you, and that's the understanding if you come to Michigan,' and he said yes to that," former U-M coach Lloyd Carr said.
"So I called him into my office at the end of his first year of spring practice, and said, 'This fall we're moving you to linebacker.' He threw a little hissy fit, but within two days of moving, he understand it was a natural position for him."
Gold carried the ball three times for nine yards as a rookie and then emerged a menace at linebacker for the Wolverines during their national championship campaign in 1997. He was a two-year starter defensively in 1998-99, racking up 18 tackles for loss among 163 stops.
The decision to move Gold worked out brilliantly but the process is never easy, Carr explained to The Wolverine a few years back.
"We may have a couple of injuries or we may have a guy that leaves the team or that wants to move to another position. As a result, a player may have an opportunity that is better than the one he currently has," he said.
"Every situation is different, but during recruiting I tell a guy I'm offering a scholarship with the intention that he could possibly be switched.
"I'll call him in to me, or occasionally they come to see me on their own. I say, 'We have a good opportunity for you at another position. It really gives you a better opportunity to play next fall. Go home, think about it and talk to your parents.'
"Most of the time they agree. Sometimes they don't."
Nowadays, it seems more and more players that don't agree simply pack up their tent and go, convinced there is a coach out there that will acquiesce (typically they're right), which could explain greater that normal attrition rates in college football and at U-M over the last five years. However, those that do stay, and work hard to achieve success at their new position, are often rewarded.
Here is a look at all the position changes since 1994 in which a player was credited with lettering at two positions (and excluding offensive linemen for the reason given above).