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Baylor's Trahan: From reserve QB to top LB

6/16/2011

Phil Bennett was still coaching for Pittsburgh, but he glanced at a TV at an airport while he was on the road.

There was Baylor and Texas A&M, with the Bears attempting a field goal on the final play of the first half. The Aggies blocked it, and Texas A&M defensive back Terrence Frederick recovered. With time having already expired, Frederick raced toward the end zone with a few Bears making chase.

He caught a few blocks and cut across the field, looking more and more likely to score.

But as Frederick neared the end zone, Baylor's Brody Trahan, a reserve quarterback, the team's holder and reserve punter, raced into view and took Frederick down at the 1-yard line to keep the Aggies off the board.

Bennett, thrilled by the play, liked what he saw.

A few months later, Bennett took a job as Baylor's defensive coordinator. He remembered Trahan, and knew his dad, a former Texas A&M quarterback. Bennett asked around, and the training staff told him Trahan's work ethic fit what he was looking for on his defense.

One of the first times they met in person, Bennett made his intentions clear.

"You need to switch to our side of the ball," he said.

"Let me know and I’ll be there," Trahan said.

He'd heard that before. During Baylor's bowl practices before facing Illinois, he played some safety, where he'd gotten some time back home in Dickinson, Texas, outside Houston. Some recruiting services had him rated higher as a safety than as a quarterback, despite his lack of experience.

When Trahan did line up on defense, he'd snagged a couple picks in high school.

"I want you to play linebacker for me," Bennett told him.

Trahan, anxious to get on the field, told him he'd do it.

"I didn’t know if he was being serious or what the deal was, but he kept coming up to me every other day and saying you’re going to be with me," Trahan said. "I was like, 'All right,' and then sure enough, when spring ball rolled around, I wasn’t in a red jersey anymore."

At 210 pounds, Trahan assumed he'd need to add some size, but Bennett told him not to bother. The coaching veteran loves speed, and he wanted Trahan, who says he runs a "high 4.6" 40 time, just the way he was.

The transition from quarterback/holder to linebacker wasn't a simple one. The amount of running -- "The most running I did in practice was dropping back or running to the running back and handing it off to him. Now I’m using the hips more, muscles I didn’t know I had, and running sideline to sideline," he said. -- might have been the easiest part.

"I hadn’t played linebacker since 7th or 8th grade. Freakin’ sandlot football was about all the linebacker experience I had," Trahan said. "I didn’t know anything about the technique or anything."

That's where he still has to improve. His footwork, too, and understanding how to read offenses before a snap the same way he read defenses as a quarterback. Hip flexibility -- the ability to change direction quickly -- will come with time, too. Mostly, he'll just have to get a feel for what he's doing and keep the position from feeling foreign.

"A couple times on a screen, I’ll mistakenly have my eyes looking the wrong way, and I’ll cut back inside and there’s big ol’ 6-foot-8 or whatever he is Robert Griffin, and he just swallowed me," Trahan said of the Bears' 330-pound guard who shares a name with the team's quarterback.

Every offensive line starter pancaked him at least once this spring, Trahan said, but his athleticism allowed him to hold his own against the running backs.

And to most people's surprise, when the spring game began, Trahan trotted out with the first-team defense.

"It was kind of a joke at first. We weren’t really sure if I’d earn some playing time," he said. "It kind of shocked everyone."

Bennett's defense still doesn't have a true depth chart, but if Trahan improves during fall camp as much as he did in the spring, it'd be shocking if the Bears' third-team quarterback from 2010 didn't get plenty of playing time -- maybe as a starter -- in 2011.

"They know I’m a hard worker and I’ll do anything, I’ll lay my body on the line to help the team," Trahan said. "I’m hoping everyone accepted it, a quarterback moving to linebacker."