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Safety Eric Rowe relishing the opportunity to help the Utes at cornerback

Published: Thursday, April 3 2014 7:20 p.m. MDT

“It’s a lot different,” he said. “Safety is more mental in the sense of defensive schemes and knowing what everybody else does. … Corner is a lot more tiring, more running and guarding receivers.

But he is also enjoying the opportunity to have a chance to prove his versatility.

“It’s a new challenge,” Rowe said. “I like new challenges and to help the team out. If that’s what we have to do to get to a bowl game, then I’m all for it. And it will help me with my man-to-man coverage.”

Spring practices are the perfect time to make a change because players are focused on technique and getting in shape.

“In the fall, it’s too late to try and improve,” Rowe said. “That’s what the spring is for. It’s all about improving. If you get beat, mess up on the gap, it’s all about improving your game so that when the fall comes, you have that skill set instead of trying to learn it during the season.”

Rowe hopes he’s able to focus on one position in the fall, but he’s also comfortable being used however the team’s needs dictate.

“I hope I lock on one position,” he said. “But if they need me to bounce back and forth, I can do it. Before, when I was a safety, I knew what the corner was supposed to do. (Switching) really wasn’t much of a big deal to me.”

The biggest issue, he said with a laugh, is getting in shape.

“I need to be in better cardio shape,” he said. “That’s basically what I’m out here doing this spring.”

Shah said that Rowe will only make himself more marketable to NFL scouts by playing corner this season.

“He’s a phenomenal safety, so you want to play where you’re used to,” Shah said. “But having Eric understand that he can become much more marketable in the eyes of folks at the next level is important. If you really want to play on Sunday, show that you can be versatile in a lot of different roles.”

It’s not just that he can play more than one position, it’s that he has the ability to excel in a position that really allows a player to be a star.

“Because of defense, our scheme, we run a lot of man coverage, and we give good athletes a chance to showcase their talent,” Shah said.

Putting defensive players — especially corners and defensive linemen — in the NFL is a point of particular pride for Ute coaches.

“We have a streak of putting a guy in the NFL for the last seven or eight years,” Shah said. “And it’s something that’s very important to us.”

Rowe appreciates that the switch may make him more likely to have opportunities in the NFL, but his first priority is helping Utah have a winning season next fall. In order to do that, he said he’s willing to play almost anywhere.

“I wouldn’t want to play offense,” he said with a smile. “I don’t like getting hit. I like to give ’em.”

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EMAIL: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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