Position Change Just Fine for McCollom

April 16, 2005

Five months ago Eric McCollom realized it was going to be hard being three-deep on Iowa’s quarterback depth chart, especially behind the likes of possible Heisman candidate Drew Tate. So the redshirt sophomore did what any player would do: change positions.

“Near the end of the (2004) season, I was kind of frustrated with the lack of playing time at the quarterback position and obviously Drew had a good year, so my dad and I decided that I should play receiver to seek more playing time,” McCollom said in an interview Friday.

McCollom first spoke to quarterbacks’ Coach Ken O’Keefe and then Head Coach Kirk Ferentz about moving to wide receiver, a position he hadn’t played since he was a sophomore at Camden High in South Carolina where he caught 31 passes for 562 yards and eight touchdowns.

The coaches were supportive of the decision and then sent McCollom to talk to receivers’ Coach Lester Erb, who was very clear with the relative newcomer.

“Coach Erb said that there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know and that I’d have to work hard and learn,” McCollom recalls. “And I said I would be willing to do that if I could play.”

The decision to switch positions has turned out to be a good one for McCollom, and this spring Ferentz said that he has a chance to be in the mix in the fall.

“I think it’s clear who 1 and 2 are, but I think he’ll definitely be in the mix,” Ferentz said, referring to seniors Clinton Solomon and Ed Hinkel. “He doesn’t know everything that he needs to know out there but he’s doing a good job. We’ve been pleased with him.”

McCollom says that the spring has gone well for him, but he’s had to get into “receiver shape.”

“As a quarterback, we do three or five step drops and that’s it,” he said. “We don’t do the whole practice like receivers. But I feel good and I feel confident. As far as my legs go, I think I’ve turned the corner to where I feel good and I’m not tired after practice like I used to be.”

But still, it’s an odd thing to say for a person whose athletic ability goes without question in the minds of his fellow receivers.

“There’s no question about his ability,” Solomon said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s one of the quicker receivers we have.”

Hinkel agrees.

“The kid’s a great athlete and he can put some nice moves on some guys,” he said. “He has some great hands too, and he can catch the ball.”

All agree, though, that McCollom needs to learn how to run his routes and break jams, the two most skilled aspects of being a receiver.

“The kid’s a great athlete and he can put some nice moves on some guys. He has some great hands too, and he can catch the ball.”
Senior Ed Hinkel on Eric McCollom

“It’s hard to move from quarterback to receiver and do that,” McCollom said. “There are so many variations to run your routes; there are no set ways to run your route. It’s not easy. I can tell you: it’s not easy, believe me.”

Solomon says that as long as McCollom keeps catching the ball the routes will come along.

“That’s what I keep telling him,” he said. “You got to know your breaks and the depth you have to get (the defender) in. But Eric McCollom is going to be one of the great receivers.”

The other thing that undoubtedly helps McCollom is his experience as a quarterback.

“I think it might help him a little bit having a better understanding of what Drew’s seeing because he’s been there,” Hinkel said. “I think that could help him.”

Solomon says the perspective helps to read what the defensive backs are doing.

“You know a few things and you know the moves you need to make,” he said. “He knows where to go.”

Now that spring practice has ended, McCollom knows he needs to continue to build up his credentials with his coaches so that he can see the playing time he’s wanted since coming to Iowa in 2003.

“It’s been two years since I’ve played and being on the sideline hurts you a lot, knowing that you’ve worked hard,” he said. “It’s not something that’s fun to be on the sideline. I’m going to ask God to keep me safe, and hopefully I’ll be out there next year.”

Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com