PROVO — BYU sophomore Michael Davis just can’t seem to remain at one position.
That is a tribute to his athleticism and versatility — but bouncing back and forth from offense to defense certainly isn’t easy for the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder from Glendale, California.
Davis signed with the Cougars as a wide receiver in 2013, but was switched to cornerback during fall camp last year due to depth issues at that position. He played in nine games and started two at boundary corner.
While Davis had been playing with the receivers through the first three practices of the 2014 version of fall camp, coach Bronco Mendenhall moved him back to the defensive side Tuesday. He ran with the first-team defense at cornerback.
Meanwhile, projected cornerback starters Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel haven’t been playing with the first team at this point of camp.
"Coach Mendenhall asked me to do (it) and I agreed with him. I was like, 'Yeah, I'll do it for the team,’” Davis said. "I heard some rumors about it, but I really didn't know for sure until (Tuesday). (Not) until Mendenhall came out of the meetings and told me I'd be switching to defense."
Of course, the Cougars have plenty of depth at receiver, including newcomers like Jordan Leslie, Nick Kurtz, Devon Blackmon and Keanu Nelson.
Davis is trying to come to grips with this new development.
"I was expecting to come back as a receiver this year and looks like I'm back at corner,” Davis said. "It was the coach's decision. Not mine."
“We liked a lot of what we saw last year (at corner) from Michael,” Mendenhall explained. “That was more out of necessity. A lot of the growth that’s happening on our team right now is based on competition. I thought even more competition at corner would be good. He did a nice job.”
Quarterback Taysom Hill went from throwing passes to Davis to going against him.
“He’s an athlete. I think that shows how good of an athlete Mike is, where he can go back and forth like that,” Hill said. “I feel bad for him, that he can’t really hone in on one of those skills and really work to develop into a starting role and playing a lot on the field. He’s at a bit of a disadvantage there. But he’s a team player and we’re lucky to have him on our team. It’s hard for me to develop chemistry with guys like that. But hopefully as he progresses through his career, he can stay at one or the other.”
Senior safety Craig Bills liked playing with Davis again.
“In meetings, he was getting right back into it,” he said. “He was excited to be out there. He picked it right up. He said, ‘Let’s not let them score touchdowns,’ and he made a great interception. It’s exciting to see how he’s going to progress.”
Mendenhall said Davis could return to receiver at some point, but he also believes Davis has a strong future as a cornerback.
“We all know that can change at any time. It also had to do a little bit with what his upside is,” Mendenhall said. “When I look at where the team needs a player, and what his best position might be in terms of what his future is, I kind of think he could be a really, really nice corner. That played into (the decision) also.”
Mendenhall likes what he’s seen from the defensive secondary so far, adding, “We know we have Jordan and Rob at the corner spots, and that’s a fantastic thing.”
Since neither Johnson nor Daniel has been playing with the first team, there’s speculation that they might be suspended for the season opener at UConn, like running back Jamaal Williams.
But that’s not something Mendenhall is addressing publicly.
“Most issues that we have in the program, I’d prefer to handle that all internally and as discreetly as possible,” he said. “What you can read into it is, we’re working on the development of players, the people, within the team setting and hopefully as privately as we can.”
Bills is looking forward to having Johnson — who was sidelined the entire 2013 campaign with a knee injury sustained in fall camp last August — on the field again.
“When he can get out there and actually practice with us and everything, it will be exciting and fun to see him back out there,” Bills said. “The little bit that we’ve seen him out there, I think it’s going to be getting the rust off and remembering how to make plays.”
For now, though, it appears Davis is a first-team cornerback.
"We'll see what happens this year,” Davis said, “and see if I can pursue that career as a cornerback."
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