AUSTIN, Texas -- Four of the five schools that offensive lineman Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco) is still considering are selling him on the idea of being a defensive tackle.
That’s exactly where the 6-foot-1, 315-pound state powerlifting champion wants to play.
“It’s more fun,” the four-star prospect said. “Offense is OK. You build good relationships with the guys on the line. But defensive line is more individual. You get more recognition. It's more my style of play. I don't like to wait on people. I like to go out there and get it."
Hearing that must ease the minds of coaches as Baylor, SMU, Mississippi State and TCU, but only to a certain degree. That’s because Texas, the lone finalist that wants him on the offensive line, normally has its pick of the litter when it comes to recruiting within state boundaries.
“It’s Texas,” Billings responded when asked if it hurt the Longhorns' chances that they want him on offense. “I just want to play four more years of football.”
That’s just it: The Longhorns sell themselves. And in instances when they do come across a recruit that might not see eye-to-eye with them on where they want him to play, they can point to the proven track record they have of changing a player's position once he’s on campus that was beneficial for both parties.
It has happened throughout the course of Mack Brown's 15 seasons on the 40 Acres.
Henry Melton spent his first two seasons at running back before coaches figured out his 6-foot-3, 260-pound frame would be better suited for the defensive line.
An honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a senior, Melton now starts for the Chicago Bears. In his first year as a starter in 2011, he finished with seven sacks, which was tied for third-most among NFL defensive tackles.
The Longhorns recruited high school All-American Aaron Lewis as a defensive end out of Albuquerque, N.M., in 2005. After starting 10 games as an end during his sophomore and junior seasons, he was moved to defensive tackle as a senior and was named an honorable mention All-Big 12 member by league coaches for the first time.
Lamarr Houston was a running back and linebacker out of Colorado Springs, but Texas moved him to defensive tackle as a junior and now he starts at defensive end for the Oakland Raiders.
“If you get the big guys that are speed guys when they start with and they gain so much weight they move down -- [former Longhorn] Marcus Tubbs was a tight end -- you just go back and look at some of those guys that can really be a force inside,” Brown said.
There are several players following similar paths on Texas’ roster.
Chris Whaley converted from running back to starting nose guard. Alex De La Torre and Chet Moss were brought in as linebackers but have both made the switch to fullback. Miles Onyegbule has transitioned from receiver to tight end and now plays alongside Greg Daniels and Caleb Bluiett, who were both recruited as defensive ends.
“We felt like my job is to look around the team, and if a guy is not being able to produce where he is, find a place where he can produce better,” Brown said. “And whether you're moving Lamarr Houston or Aaron Lewis or guys that we've moved throughout our 15 years here, that's part of my job is to try to figure out who can step up and have a chance.”
The main issue for Texas, which really isn’t much of one to begin with, is getting these players on campus in order to make a switch possible. Longhorns coaches have told Billings that they’d give him a shot at defensive tackle but that they see his future as a center.
He doesn’t have any qualms with that and neither did fellow two-way ESPN 150 lineman Jake Raulerson, who was originally recruited as an offensive tackle but could start off on the defensive line.
“I just want to play the game,” said Raulerson, who has as impressive an offers list as anyone. “I don’t really care where I line up. I just want to play.”
But there are recruits that Texas does have to work extra on. Take Livingston (Texas) athlete Chevoski Collins, who is wanted by the Longhorns as a defense back. He’d rather play receiver and could have that opportunity elsewhere.
Texas can sell him on the role of freshman Kendall Sanders, who had two interceptions in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a defensive back but is now a receiver who saw playing time in the season opener.
“I’m just trusting the coaches to put me in the right spot,” Sanders told HornsNation after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
They have a history of doing so.