Just in case the Colorado Buffaloes need another tailback to move to defensive back, the coaches can rest easy knowing they've got a guy with a knack for turning interceptions into six points.
True freshman Malcolm Creer set a California state record his junior year of high school by returning a pick 108 yards for a touchdown. He followed that up his senior year with a 99-yard return for a score.
Of course, CU defensive coordinator Greg Brown might have a wrestling match with offensive boss Eric Bieniemy on his hands if he tried to recruit the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Creer to the other side.
"We're not letting everybody move over there," CU head coach Jon Embree joked this week as he noted that Creer was off-limits to move around. "When Eric evaluated him as a running back (in high school), EB really like him and was excited about him."
CU senior Brian Lockridge moved from tailback to cornerback four weeks ago before the Buffs' game against Washington State as injuries and suspensions mounted in the secondary. With the situation even more dire last week against Oregon, true freshman D.D. Goodson made the switch.
Creer made his CU debut against Oregon just like Goodson, but his came on offense instead. He rushed 11 times for 37 yards, including a long of 9 yards, while backing up redshirt freshman Tony Jones.
With the moves by Lockridge and Goodson and the injury to senior starter Rodney Stewart, the Buffs are down to just three tailbacks -- Jones, Creer and sophomore Josh Ford.
"When I got called in for the meeting about pulling my redshirt, I didn't hesitate," Creer said. "I said, 'Yes, I'll play any position you need me to.
"Even though I didn't play half the season it still ... helps me for next year so I won't go in there with wide open eyes like I never played before."
Although he hoped to play right away as a freshman, Creer said he came in with the mindset of simply getting the playbook down and working hard.
Major college programs had largely overlooked Creer during the recruiting process. Part of that, the Los Angeles product said, was the fact that he played for a Palisades High program not well known for football. Part of it was that he didn't start playing until he was a sophomore.
Creer's mother had felt football was too violent, and his first love was basketball anyway. He played hoops in middle school with CU Buffs freshman guard Askia Booker, and he played against CU freshman Spencer Dinwiddie in high school.
"I did have hoop dreams, but then I didn't get any taller," Creer said.
Creer started at tailback as a junior and rushed for 660 yards. He racked up 1,270 yards as a senior, averaging more than 10 yards per carry. But he also performed well on defense, where he played cornerback and some safety.
His 108-yard interception return came on a play where he wasn't even supposed to be in, but the coaches ran him on the field at the last second.
"Caught it in the back of the end zone and just ran it out," Creer said. "Everyone told me to kneel the ball, but I just saw grass and kept running."
Creer went to several camps to try and catch the attention of college programs. As the recruiting process wound down, Creer's only two major scholarship offers came from Colorado and Washington. Nebraska had been interested but never offered.
"At Colorado I just felt like I was the No. 1 prospect, and they had faith in me and saw something in me to help their program," Creer said.
Asked whether he considered trying to get by with only Jones and Ford at tailback until Stewart could return so as to not burn Creer's redshirt, Embree said he and his assistants were merely trying to get the guys on the field "who give us the best chance to win."
Ford is currently listed second on the depth chart behind Jones, but got no carries against Oregon. The coaches had been impressed with what they'd seen from the physical Creer on the scout team in recent weeks and wanted to see what he could do.
"We were glad to get him in there and pleased with his performance," Embree said.
Creer only figures to see more action in the final five games as Embree noted this week that he wasn't burning freshmen's redshirts at this point of the season if they weren't going to see significant playing time.
While the Buffs' injury situation is more unenviable than chicken pox, the repetitions the Buffs' youngsters at tailback are getting should make for a deep, experienced mix at the position after Stewart graduates.
"All three of us are getting better every week," Jones said. "(Stewart's) out so we've just all been working hard together to make sure we know our blocking assignments and reads."