Polk Learning the Ropes at New Position
Aug. 7, 2007
A season ago, Nick Polk earned Sporting News freshman All-America honors after making 32 catches for 326 yards and a touchdown. He finished third in catches and fourth in receiving yards on a team that was among the most pass-heavy teams in the Big Ten.
This season, he's just looking for someone to hit.
With the amount of depth that IU has at wide receiver and the lack of depth that it has in the defensive backfield, Polk finds himself fighting for a starting spot at safety heading into 2007.
"Coming in as a safety is definitely different," Polk said. "I came in as a wide receiver the last few years during camp. It's a lot more fun this year. I got a lot of reps this summer, so I'm used to getting used to the defensive side of the ball and I'm just ready to go. I'm pumped for the season."
The spring and summer months are always an opportunity for football players to work on specific portions of their game and keep up their conditioning, but for the Milwaukee, Wis., native, his spring and summer workouts were particularly important. He made the most of it by seeking the help of his fellow defensive backs - particularly Tracy Porter, Joe Kleinsmith and Austin Thomas.
"I've definitely picked up on a lot of techniques," Polk said. "It helped me out a lot this summer. We did some seven-on-seven drills and I've been working with the D-backs, preferably Tracy, but we've been working pretty hard. He's been helping me with different techniques.
"I've been getting a lot of advice this summer," he added.
Porter, who was a second team All-Big Ten choice at cornerback last year, has been particularly helpful to Polk, as one of Porter's greatest strengths is one of his biggest weaknesses as a DB.
"He's definitely helped me a lot because I know he is really good with his back pedal," Polk said. "He has definitely helped me out with that aspect and just some different things to look for with different alignments."
When Polk signed on with the Hoosiers, he was expecting to play at wide receiver throughout his IU career. But knowing he had played on both sides of the ball in high school, the coaching staff approached him as a possible solution to adding depth to the defensive backfield.
"They pulled me in about six or seven practices into the spring and asked me if I thought I would be able to do it," Polk recalled. "I said I'd do anything to help the team out. I just wanted to step up and they thought I could fill the position so that's what I'm trying to do now."
Getting used to his new, and old, position has been a learning experience for the sophomore. But he is primed for the challenge, and excited about helping his team toward their goal of making a bowl game.
"It's a lot faster [than in high school]," Polk said. "It's a lot more about technique and the way you react to the ball and the receiver and what movements. It's definitely about footwork and my tackling has to get better. I have to get back into the groove and get used to it. When we get the pads on, I'll definitely get a lot of tackling drills in so I can get better at that as well."
While he has worked hard at becoming acclimated to his new post on the team, Polk is still planning to see action on the offensive side of the ball as well.
"I'm not exactly sure [if I will play at wide receiver] yet, but I believe I will," he said. I definitely want to."
Polk has bulked up from 200 pounds entering last season to the 215 range at the beginning of camp. And in addition to his added size being an asset, Polk carries with him the knowledge of what is going through the minds of opposing receivers as he gets used to pass coverage.
"It helps a lot because you look at some of the techniques you had as a wide receiver," he said. "It helps you in seeing what different movements the wide receivers make so you can see the other side and know you can break on it this way or that way."
Regardless of which side of the ball he lines up on, Polk knows that the number of people fighting for a starting spot will drive him to bring maximum effort to every preseason practice.
"You know you're competing for a spot, so you're definitely going hard every drill and every different workout."
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