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June 5, 2008DeRon Furr said he'd been thinking about it for a long time. Last week, he finally made what is often a tough decision for young college athletes.
Furr, a true freshman who enrolled at Auburn in January, was a standout quarterback in high school leading Carver (Ga.) High to the Class AAA state championship.
He was committed to playing quarterback with the Tigers but after a spring on the offensive side of the ball, Furr has decided to try his hand on defense. He's making the move to safety, a position he hopes will allow him an opportunity for earlier playing time at Auburn and a better chance to reach the NFL.
"I'd been thinking about it for a while and then it just clicked for me to go ahead and do it and stop thinking about it," said Furr. "I figure it's the quickest way for me to get in the league. Coming from quarterback, I already see a lot of things develop for me. It comes easy for me.
"Everybody was saying I have the size, the physical attributes, the toughness and I like hitting."
It was a decision Furr made on his own. He informed the coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, late last week.
"I went and talked with coach Rhoads and asked him how would he like me over there," said Furr. "He said he'd love to have me. I told him I was ready to make the move.
"Coach told me they are real low on depth at safety and I would have a good chance over there. I'm going to focus on that real hard and hopefully I can get on the field next year and make some plays."
Furr ended spring as the fourth-string quarterback behind co-starters Kodi Burns and Chris Todd, and sophomore Neil Caudle. Incoming freshman Barrett Trotter, who has played in AU's new spread offense the past three years, joined the team this summer.
The Tigers only return three scholarship players at safety, however, in sophomores Zac Etheridge and Mike McNeil, and redshirt freshman Mike Slade.
Furr worked at safety for the first time Thursday during AU's voluntary, player-led workouts.
"It felt good," said Furr. "I used to play DB and now I'm getting back into it."
Furr was a starting defensive back as a sophomore in high school before making the move to full-time quarterback.
While Furr showed off his athleticism and even had a couple of big hits playing quarterback this spring, Rhoads said he'll have to use an entirely different skill-set on defense.
"To get a fifth player that's already on the roster without having to rely on an incoming freshman is very important," said Rhoads. "There's no question he has athleticism but that doesn't equate necessarily to what you need to do as a defensive player. Running forward is one thing, being able to cut is another thing that offensive players show.
"But you have to be able to get your hips open and change direction out of that as a defensive player. You can never see that based on what an offensive player does."
Furr hopes to show Rhoads that he has the ability to play defense when fall practice gets underway in August.
"The DB's welcomed me in and said they're going to teach me a lot of stuff. They're glad to have me and I'm glad for them to have me," said Furr. "I'm going to work hard at it right now and just focus on safety.
"I'm going to go through two-a-days and hopefully that will show me where I'm at on the depth chart."
While Furr said he'll still miss quarterback a little bit, he's already developing a defensive mentality.
"I'll miss the ball being in my hands every play, making plays and having the game on my back in the last part of the game, but I know on defense I'm still going to have chance to make big plays and turnaround some games," he said.
"I just love hitting, just going and knocking somebody out or taking it back the other way. I know if I get the ball in my hands, I'm not going to let an offensive player tackle me."