Emerson's Exchange - Charlie Emerson's Move from Offense to Defense
Oct. 25, 2007
There are numerous high school football players that go on to play college football and play a different position than what they did in high school. Indiana fifth-year senior Charlie Emerson is no different in that respect. But the fact that his position change involved changing sides of the ball makes it slightly different.
Emerson came to Bloomington from Westport, Conn., after being named the Connecticut Post's Defensive MVP and leading Staples High School to the Connecticut state championship as a senior.
His first transition would be adjusting to life in the Midwest compared to the East Coast, but he says it has gone very well and he would not change anything.
"It has been a great experience," Emerson said. "Coming from Connecticut, it is a little different than it is here. It is a change that took me a little while to get used to, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I love IU and all the friends and teammates I have met here have been great. I have really been able to embrace and bring anything in."
After redshirting his first year at Indiana, Emerson \played 20 snaps in the first game of 2004 against Central Michigan. That would be his only game action of the season but there would be brighter days ahead. As a sophomore, he appeared in all 11 games and made 23 tackles as a defensive end, including four starts. He also recorded a sack at Michigan State and had four tackles against Nicholls State.
Going into the offseason before his junior season, Emerson was still listed as a starting defensive end and took part in all the defensive drills in preparation for the season. But as the season neared, the offensive line started to get a little thin. So thin in fact, that Emerson was asked to move to the offensive line two weeks before the start of the season because the team needed bodies to fill the positions.
"I had to learn a whole new offense and a whole new position in two weeks before starting the first game," Emerson said. "So they threw a lot at me right away. It was a lot to handle, but my offensive linemen and teammates are great. I had Justin Frye and John Sandberg playing next to me and tutoring me and really being a student of the game and helping me understand the game to help me become a better player."
So after going against the offensive line for three seasons, Emerson was going to join them. Not only did he join them, he broke into the starting lineup in time for the season opener and started the first 11 games. He did not start the final game of the year due to a foot injury, but was able to play in the game.
"It was a tough transition at first because I played defense my first three years here and really enjoyed it," Emerson said. "There was a need for offensive linemen and they asked me to switch over to tackle. It was tough leaving my defensive guys and going over to the offense and blocking them. It turned out great."
Although he is still playing on the line, the difference between offense and defense is something that took a little time for Emerson to adjust to.
"The offense is a lot more mental," Emerson says, comparing the defense to the offense, "whereas on defense you improvise and take what they give you. On offense, you are running specific plays and have different checks for different protections. You have to be aware of what your teammates are doing next to you as well as what the defense is doing. So you constantly have to be on your toes instead of improvising and executing a stunt or blitz."
His days on defense have given him some added insight into what a defender is thinking in different situations, which may give him an advantage over linemen that have just played offense their entire careers. However, now that he has been on both sides of the ball, Emerson realizes that no matter where you play, you have to be prepared if you want to be successful.
"On defense it is a big mind game, you have to try to mess with the offensive lineman's head," Emerson recalls from his days on defense. "And on offense, you really have to study your opponent and try to pick up tendencies like if they lean a certain way or line up a certain way on plays. So preparation is really big on both sides."
But there is some improvising that has to take place as an offensive lineman, especially when there is a mobile quarterback like Kellen Lewis in the backfield. Sure, it's great for the offense to have an active quarterback that can elude defenders in the backfield, but it does provide its own set of challenges.
"Obviously, having Kellen back there is a great asset to our team because he can make moves with his feet that a lot of people can't," Emerson said. "But the difficult part is that we never know when he is going to run, so you always have to be on your blocks. If you see your defender bailing out and running somewhere, you know something is happening, so you have to get on your horse and run right after him.
"It is difficult at times because you will think you have your block sealed and then Kellen comes running underneath you. But I wouldn't change anything; Kellen is a great player and asset to this team."
So as Emerson is completing his second season as an offensive lineman, his comfort level continues to increase with each game and practice. He even goes so far as to say that the moves and reads that he is making now have become "second nature."
"My steps, stances and being able to pick up blitzes have really become second nature to me," Emerson says. "I am able to pick things up pretty quickly and I always have the help of the other offensive linemen. So now I can just go and play and not have to think as much about the play that is called."
While he may have been reluctant at first, Emerson now realizes that he has had the opportunity to do something that very few college football players have the chance to do - play on both sides of the ball. Instead of doing it in the same game like most people think when they hear about a player competing on both sides of the ball, Emerson just took a little more time to get to the other side.
"I started all of last year and started every game this year and it's been a great experience playing on both sides of the ball. Understanding the defense and the offense gives you a greater knowledge of the game itself."
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