For the first time since officially becoming a Wildcat, Godwin Igwebuike has a position. A running back in high school, Igwebuike was considered by most recruiting services to be a safety in the college ranks. Then, Igwebuike said he and the coaches would decide before the season whether he would play running back or safety. Now, it appears we have our answer — Igwebuike is listed as a defensive back (likely safety) on the early 2013 roster.
Pat Fitzgerald changes players' positions a lot, so there's always the chance that Igwebuike will end up back at running back. However, this is the right move for the time being, especially when you consider depth right now and in the future. Chris Johnson wrote on the decision and got Igwebuike's input this spring:
The choices boil down to two positions: running back and safety. Igwebuike maintains he has no preference either way, and that he expects coaches to help him reach a consensus sometime this spring.
He also understands the gravity of the decision, and what it could mean for his career long-term.
“It’s a really big decision,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing that sticks with you for a long time, so I have to make sure I’m making the right choice.”
So did Igwebuike and the coaches make the right choice? It's impossible to say right now, considering he has yet to step foot on a college field. However, all other factors aside, when you look at where Igwebuike might see the field earlier in his career, safety seems like the obvious choice. Here's the breakdown by position:
2013 starters: Ibraheim Campbell (Jr), Traveon Henry (So)
2013 backups: Jimmy Hall (Jr), Davion Fleming (Sr)
Others: Terrance Brown (RS Fr), Kyle Queiro (Fr)
2013 starter: Venric Mark (Sr)
2013 backups: Mike Turmpy (Sr), Malin Jones (RS Fr), Stephen Buckley (RS Fr)
Others: Warren Long (Fr), Xavier Menifield (Fr), Auston Anderson (2014), Justin Jackson (2014)
If Igwebuike redshirts, He has the potential to battle for a starting spot as a sophomore, battling Terrance Brown and Kyle Queiro for the spot opposite Traveon Henry. At running back, the path to playing time would've been more difficult and the depth chart more crowded. That isn't to say Igwebuike would shy away from the competition; rather, it just wouldn't make sense to stack the running back depth chart when there is a need for talent at safety.
After Mark and Trumpy graduate, NU still has a lot of running back talent coming in for years to come. Malin Jones and Stephen Buckley both figure to play a role this season, while Warren Long and Xavier Menifield are both promising true freshmen. Auston Anderson and Justin Jackson — possibly the most highly-touted running back recruits of the Pat Fitzgerald era — both come into the program next year. That's a lot of talent, and while there's certainly the possibility that Igwebuike could have risen to the top, it wasn't worth potentially wasting his talent.
Igwebuike won't be the only player switching from running back to defensive back this year. Keith Watkins, a state champion running back in high school, will switch to cornerback in college. He cited the NFL possibility as a motivation to switch, and that could be a plus for Igwebuike, as well.
“If you really look at it, if you want to last in the league, it just makes more sense,” Watkins said last month. “Defensive back isn’t easy or anything, but if you look at the drafts, they get taken higher and more often. Running back is a lot of wear and tear.”
So who knows what exactly the future holds for Igwebuike. There are no guarantees in the high school-to-college transition, and he likely won't be seeing much of the field this year. However, we do know the answer to perhaps the biggest question surrounding the freshman class heading into fall camp — when Igwebuike does see the field, it will be at safety, not running back.