NORMAN — When Oklahoma updated its official football roster online last Wednesday night, one long-rumored position change was confirmed.
Geneo Grissom, a 6-foot-4, 247-pound third-string defensive end last season, was moved to tight end.
The news was quickly met with questioning and criticism by some OU faithful. Why move an athletic, promising defensive end when the position just lost two All-Big 12 selections to the NFL?
A fair question, to be sure. Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis left big shoes to be filled, and coaches have praised Grissom, who was expected to be in the rotation as a sophomore.
He saw action in six games and recorded five tackles as a redshirt freshman last season.
Grissom's high school coach, for his part, thinks Oklahoma fans will be “more than pleasantly surprised” with his former pupil's performance at tight end.
Randy Dreiling, coach at Hutchinson (Kan.) High, always used Grissom as the second tight end in two-tight end sets, he said. Hutchinson employs a run-first offense.
“He was a ferocious blocker,” Dreiling said. “I think it's a pretty natural move, given his body.
“He's got incredible hands, and his arms are so long.”
Dreiling remembered one game during Grissom's senior year when he was going out for a pass, ran through a safety and caught a “tremendous” touchdown pass that was called back for offensive pass interference.
Still, Grissom was primarily a defensive player at Hutchinson. He recorded 72 tackles (21 for loss) and 6.5 sacks during his senior year, when his school won its sixth straight Kansas state championship.
Grissom's move to offense implies coaches are pleased with what they've got at his old position. Seniors R.J. Washington and David King are projected starters, with sophomore Chuka Ndulue and Chaz Nelson, a junior-college transfer, backing them up.
“I always felt like he was a natural on offense,” Dreiling said. “He's gifted on the offensive side.”
It's a good thing, because OU returns zero experience at tight end in 2012.
The Sooners lost James Hanna and Trent Ratteree to graduation, and Austin Haywood and his great expectations left OU in the middle of last season after spatting with coaches.
With Grissom's move from defensive end, OU added depth to a position rife with inexperience.
The Sooners added three new tight ends — junior-college transfer Brannon Green and true freshmen Sam Grant and Taylor McNamara — in the 2012 recruiting class.
Green, considered more of a blocking tight end, was listed as the starter through the spring with McNamara backing him up.
McNamara enrolled early and was impressive in April's spring game, grabbing three catches for 23 yards.
While it's unclear at this point where Grissom will land on the depth chart, it's easy to assume that coaches wouldn't have moved him if they didn't think he could contribute.
Position: Tight end
Weight: 247 pounds
Hometown: Hutchinson, Kan.
Bio: Committed to Kansas throughout his senior year of high school, but opened his recruiting back up after then-KU coach Mark Mangino faced allegations of player abuse. ... Was rated Kansas' third-best recruit in the class of 2010, behind fellow OU signees Justin McCay (WR) and Blake Bell (QB). McCay has since transferred to KU. ... Redshirted as a true freshman because of a stress fracture in foot, then suffered the same injury in his other foot earlier this year, causing him to miss most of spring football.