After redshirting in 2010, Brandon Ifill came out and played in all 13 games last year as a safety. He finished with 13 tackles for the season including a season-best three tackles against Notre Dame and SMU.
It looked like Ifill could expect to contribute the same or even more, based on his game experience as a redshirt freshman. However, with the return of starters Jason Hendricks, Andrew Taglianetti and Jarred Holley, the addition of Ray Vinopal off his transfer year, Ifill went to head coach Paul Chryst to ask if he could move to receiver. Ifill had played on both sides of the ball in high school, where he averaged 14 yards a catch as a senior, and 13.1 yards a catch as a junior.
Chryst's philosophy on players switching positions—if they come to him and ask about him, he will grant their wish. That was the case with Ifill.
"When Coach (Phil) Bennett was here, I wanted to play defense in his system," Ifill said. "Things change, so I talked to Coach (Chryst) to see how the spring goes. After that, it can go either way. He was very receptive to it."
Even though the receivers return a lot of experience—mainly Mike Shanahan, Devin Street, Cameron Saddler and Ronald Jones—Ifill is looking for a way to get involved in the receiver rotation. Furthermore, it's a new offense, and the offense is under more pressure to step things up in 2012, as opposed to the defense which has outshined the offense so far in spring drills.
Ifill said there's still a lot of learning involved, but he's been getting a heavy amount of reps working in with the receivers this spring.
"So far it's a lot of learning, a lot of details that I wasn't used to, but it's getting better each day," Ifill said. "Each practice it's getting better."
Add a new position coach Bobby Engram, who says—like all the other positions—that all spots are open.
"Right now, there's no depth chart to me," Engram said. "Certain guys have earned the right to go in there. At the same time, they have to compete. I love that about them. They've accepted that challenge. Every man is working hard to compete and get a starting job.
"I think Brandon is a big guy who can run well. He's a smart guy. He's in multiple positions (at receiver)."
Ifill said his constant contact with Engram, aside from the practices, is what is helping him most through this transition.
"I talk to Coach (Bobby) Engram every day," Ifill said. "He says I'm getting better every day with the details—just me getting used to catching the ball again on a regular basis. You can go days in the secondary, weeks, without touching the ball. Just catching the ball, details and things with routes, timing with the quarterbacks—it's getting better each day."
Ifill said the possibility of him moving back to safety or corner could still happen. Take Tuesday's practice for example, where K'Waun Williams was held out of practice with a minor injury. That left Cullen Christian and Lloyd Carrington with the first-team, with Lafayette Pitts and walk-on Patrick Fisher with the second-team. It seems in this case, there would be a quicker way to the field.
Ifill said he could see himself moving back, but for now he'll focus his time on better learning the receiver position.
"If he needs me to go back to defense, I'll do that, whatever is best for the team," Ifill said. "That's up to Coach. If he thinks I can play more on offense, I'll do it. I'll do whatever Coach Chryst wants me to do."