Thursday, September 3, 2009
Indiana's Fisher puts team's needs first
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Like many sports cliches, team player is used too liberally in college football.
That is, unless you're talking about Indiana's Ray Fisher.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Ray Fisher, who led the Hoosiers in receptions and TD catches last season, has made the move from offense to defense.
The idea of a player moving from offense to defense before his senior year sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. The idea of the player actually offering to play a new position so late in his career is even more unusual. Throw in the fact that Fisher finished as Indiana's top wide receiver in 2008, and his transition to cornerback seems either incredibly heroic or extremely unwise.
"I was just looking for the team's best interest," Fisher explained. "I know we can get better by me playing the position. I'm a team guy and I know I can help a lot at that position."
Fisher isn't a stranger to the cornerback spot, having played both corner and wide receiver at Cleveland's Glenville High School. He recorded four interceptions as a junior before missing all of his senior season with an injury, but he came to Indiana to catch passes.
After appearing in 11 games as a true freshman, Fisher became Indiana's No. 2 option behind record-setter James Hardy in 2007. Fisher recorded 482 yards and five touchdowns that fall as the Hoosiers reached the Insight Bowl. Last year, he led the team in both receptions (42) and touchdown catches (5).
"That’s the position I really love," Fisher said of wide receiver. "But since we’re lacking at corner at Indiana, I’ll play just because there’s a need for it."
Fisher first started joking with the coaches about playing cornerback during his sophomore season. Back then, Indiana was set at corner with Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors. But Fisher's tone turned more serious last fall when injuries depleted the secondary -- and pretty much the whole team -- and the Hoosiers tumbled to last in the Big Ten and 105th nationally in pass defense (260.5 yards per game).
Ideally, Fisher wanted to play both ways, but the need at corner was obvious and Indiana felt good about its wide receivers, even after the April dismissal of Kellen Lewis.
"Wide receiver was a position where we felt like we had a whole lot of depth and was able to afford to send him over to the other side," Hoosiers wide receivers coach Billy Lynch said. "Ray’s just a football player. He’s a high-energy guy, he’s a confident guy and he obviously can run, so he brings an enthusiasm and a confidence and a presence to the defensive side of the ball.
"I think that move is going to pay off big for our team."
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Fisher makes his first start at cornerback tonight when Indiana opens the season against Eastern Kentucky.
Despite the long layoff, Fisher has gradually picked up the nuances of his new-old position. He received a taste of how cornerbacks operate by working closely with Porter as a young wide receiver.
Though he misses the wideout position and hopes to play both ways in the NFL, Fisher sees at least one bonus to his new spot.
"I talk a little bit more trash because on the defensive side of the ball, you don’t have to run back to the huddle," he said. "You can just chill and relax. All day long, it's nonstop with me."