Jihaad Pretlow wasn’t entirely comfortable at safety.
Spending his freshman season as a defensive back, Pretlow felt he was better suited on the offensive side of the ball.
“There were some things that I didn’t feel comfortable with,” Pretlow said, after the Temple’s second day of training camp. “I just wanted to show my athleticism more and I felt like wide receiver would be the position for my athleticism.”
“Jihaad came to us and asked if he could move to offense,” coach Matt Rhule said. “He started last year at safety, but just felt like he was more natural at that position. We have a lot of depth at safety and while I wanted him to stay there, at the same time I certainly understood his wishes and said we’ll give him a good shot.”
Pretlow stayed put at safety through spring ball, but subsequently made the switch to receiver, working on the transition throughout the summer.
“He’s done some good things, so we’ll see what happens as camp goes on,” Rhule said.
Pretlow isn’t the only Owl playing in a different position this season.
Junior Brandon Shippen has also made the jump from defensive back to wide receiver, while junior Shahbaz Ahmed flipped from the defensive line to offensive line. Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Stephaun Marshall switched from safety to linebacker, and sophomore Sharif Finch moved up from linebacker to the defensive line.
A former running back and cornerback at Norristown Area High School, with 1,200 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and 184 receiving yards on offense in his senior year, it seemed Shippen’s strengths were better suited as an offensive player heading into this summer’s training camp. Rhule noted that offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield believes he can utilize Shippen’s speed.
With Pretlow also switching at the same time, the adjustment to the attacking side of the football is a little easier.
“You can talk to somebody else who is doing the same thing as you,” Pretlow said. “He understands what you’re going through, and he’s also learning the same thing you’re learning. You get to play together and you understand what’s going on at the same time, so you have somebody to talk to while you’re going through the transition.”
Like Shippen’s move to wide receiver, Ahmed’s move to the offensive line was based on where his strengths would be better suited.
“I met with coach Rhule in the spring, and basically, things weren’t really working out on defense,” Ahmed said. “I didn’t feel comfortable at defensive tackle. They moved me from defensive end to defensive tackle. So he sat me down and basically told me, ‘If you move to offensive line you can be more athletic than the others that you go against.’”
“At first I was really shocked,” Ahmed added. “I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can really do that.’ But then I went back for a day and looked at the big picture and thought if I could put this weight on then I can be a really good player at my position.”
Ahmed said he had to add 20 pounds to bolster his 260-pound figure in the spring. He is currently listed at 285 pounds.
“He’s just worked like a son of a gun this summer,” Rhule said. “He’s gotten strong so he’s really athletic on the offensive line.”
“I worked my butt off this summer to put on 20 pounds of good weight,” Ahmed said. “Not to try and put on any bad weight where I could just lose it all during camp, try to put on good pounds of muscle.”
Marshall was in a position where he also had to put on weight to be able to play at linebacker. He said he needed to gain ten pounds, and currently weighs in at 190, but worked constantly throughout the summer, making the team’s weekly ELITE group seven of eight times during the team’s workouts that spanned from May to July.
Playing at linebacker isn’t anything unfamiliar for Marshall, having spent time at the position back when he was at Montclair High School. He also got a taste of it last year with the Owls in their 41-21 win against Memphis on Nov. 30.
“We put him down in the box, which is what he played in high school, and he really made a lot of plays for us,” Rhule said. “So we felt like moving him out of the back end, which anyway he could do, but putting him down where his real strength was was the right move we thought.”
As for Finch, who isn’t fully practicing yet due to a knee injury, the hope is that he can bolster a weakness up front after coming off a season in which he had two sacks and 30 tackles in 11 games.
“Sharif did a really nice job last year blitzing and coming off the edge,” Rhule said. “He has some length and some athleticism and it’s a position of need for us to really build our defensive line, so we moved him there to see if he can pass rush with the thought that we can always move him back.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.