SALT LAKE CITY — An offensive player switching to the defensive side of the ball is nothing new at the University of Utah.
In fact, it is such a regular occurrence under head coach Kyle Whittingham — here’s looking at you, Chase Hansen — that it would be more surprising if it didn’t happen.
So when news broke early this spring that wide receiver Bronson Boyd, briefly of Texas Tech, was making the move to cornerback, it was met with practically no response.
The same thing happened a year prior, only that time it was Josh Nurse who made the transition to defensive back from wide out.
Adding to the lack of hubbub surrounding their respective moves was the position Nurse and Boyd moved to.
Cornerback, which both are slated to play this season, is considered one of the more difficult positions to learn.
As Nurse put it, you basically have to forget everything you know about football, especially if your prior position was wide receiver.
“You can’t think like a wide receiver,” he said. “A receiver might do a made up release, but when you are a DB, that is not realistic. You have to get out of that mode, get out of your receiver mind.”
Heading into last year’s campaign, Nurse wasn’t expected to contribute much, if at all, and he didn’t, save for regular appearances on special teams.
At the start of spring practice this year, Boyd was in the exact same boat.
And yet, at the close of spring football, following the Red-White game, defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley brought up both Nurse and Boyd when discussing the cornerback situation at Utah.
Specifically, he mentioned that both players made considerable strides this spring, with Nurse locked in competition with Tareke Lewis for the starting cornerback position, opposite Jaylon Johnson.
“With the move of Julian Blackmon to safety, we wanted to get some corner depth,” said Scalley. “Tareke Lewis has made a lot of progress, as have Bronson Boyd and Josh Nurse.”
It would seem that the transition has paid off for the duo and as far as Boyd is concerned, that was to be expected.
The Arlington, Texas native played both safety and cornerback in high school and when he and cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah sat down during the offseason to discuss which position he was best suited to play at the next level, they quickly decided it would be on defense.
“We all thought that it would be a good thing to switch over,” said Boyd. “That is why I made the switch and I am happy I did.”
It was a different story for Nurse, however.
The Fayetteville, Georgia native wanted nothing to do with the defensive side of the ball before he made the switch.
“I was frustrated about the switch, honestly,” Nurse said. “I didn’t necessarily want to do it.
"I had to have a come to Jesus talk, and I just decided to trust in it, to trust in the coaches, that they had my best interests at heart.”
After a year at cornerback, Nurse has changed his tune.
“I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way,” he said. “I don’t think words can really describe how far I’ve come. I’ve watched film from last spring, and I did some good things then, but now, as far as technique and the mental aspect of the game, I have completely grown.”
Nurse’s transition has been a real benefit to Boyd, who has leaned on his fellow wide receiver-turned-defensive back throughout the spring.
“We watch film together. We go over things, things that the offense does, that the offense might choose to do,” said Nurse. “We go over all that stuff. He is slowly but surely getting it.”
“I am getting the feel of the game at corner, getting the feel of the offense’s schemes and formations,” said Boyd. “It is going really well.”
It is Nurse’s help, along with Boyd’s own enthusiasm for the position, that has enabled him to progress from a novice cornerback to one who has a real opportunity to see playing time.
“Bronson is a kid that just got to me and this has been an invaluable spring,” said Shah. “He is running around going, ‘Coach, what am I doing? Did I mess up everything? Did I do anything good?’ It is fun. I love his enthusiasm.”5 comments on this story
“I see a lot of myself in Bronson,” Nurse added. “He is trying to get it down and gets frustrated at times, just like I did, but we tell him every day just be patient, because he has all the intangibles, everything he needs to be a good corner. Just like they told me.”
Ultimately, the addition of two 6-foot-plus players to the defensive backfield is everything the Utes could want — “To add another 6-foot corner surely helps your cause,” Shah said — and it is a move that appears to have paid off.