CU’s Kyle Washington broke up this pass against USC last fall as a safety. During spring ball, he’s playing at linebacker.
CU's Kyle Washington broke up this pass against USC last fall as a safety. During spring ball, he's playing at linebacker. ( Cliff Grassmick )

Kyle Washington has been down Position Switch Alley before.

Having that experience under his belt is allowing him to attack his move from safety to Will linebacker this spring with little worry, though he admits it might have helped if coaches gave him a little more notice about their plans than the week or so he had this time.

Washington played well as a true freshman safety last season, considering he was not only thrust into a major role early, but even spent a few games as one of the senior members of a badly depleted secondary.

He was on the field for 192 snaps on defense in eight games and also contributed on special teams.

Coaches liked what they saw from him, especially when reviewing film this offseason while thinking of ways to get more speed on the field. Moving Washington to linebacker was one of their first ideas.

"He's got some work to do, but I like what I see so far," veteran linebackers coach Brian Cabral said.

How soon could Washington adapt and possibly make an impact on game days?

"It depends on his instincts," Cabral said. "It depends on how physical he is. It depends on how fast he learns. Some guys are bigger projects than others. I'll know more after the first day of full pads."


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The Buffs will don full pads for the first time this spring on Thursday, but a full practice with tackling won't come until this weekend. By the halfway point of spring ball at the end of next week, Cabral should be better able to project how much Washington will be able to help him in 2012.

Washington says he is unsure whether the coaches see his move as a spring experiment of if he will be a linebacker from this point on.

"Of course right now I'm biased toward safety just because I'm used to it and I don't really have to learn too much because I played last year," Washington said. "But that's probably the only reason why is just experience-wise."

Washington is 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. He plays with aggression and hits with force. Add that to the increase in speed he brings to the linebacking corps and it's a pretty safe bet he will remain at linebacker, especially considering the reinforcements CU has added to the secondary in the 2012 recruiting class.

Washington said he is fighting through some simple growing pains right now, learning his new position, but he likes the challenge of it.

"It gets me disappointed every once in awhile just because I like knowing what I'm doing and I like being sure," Washington said. "You know, you just get those points where you're not sure sometimes. Boots are not my best friend right now, seeing the lineman going one way and the play going the other, but I'll get it."

In his new role, Washington said he will be asked to rush the quarterback, drop into coverage and fill gaps on run defense. He said he has a ton of new responsibilities, but he believes his speed will be a huge asset once he gets the mental side down.

"I think that is what's helping me right now," Washington said. "I feel like I can get to places. My reads are a little slower just because I haven't been doing it that much, but I feel like once I get it, I can get there a little faster, which will balance out."