The biggest storyline in Arkansas’ spring practices has been players moving positions and none have been bigger than the move of former quarterback AJ Derby to tight end.
Derby completed 19 passes last season filling in for injured starter Brandon Allen. After making the transition to tight end, Derby talks about how the move has been best for him and the team.
Q: How is the move to tight end going?
Derby: It’s been a smooth transition. Being a quarterback, I feel like learning the passing game has been really comfortable for me. The run game is the thing I’m trying to work on every single day. Keep getting better at that.
Q: Hunter Henry says you’ve taught him some things in the meeting room, that they weren’t aware of?
Derby: Yeah, that just comes from sitting in meetings with Coach (Jim) Chaney, he’s a big X’s and O’s guy, he knows so much about football. Learning from him has just been amazing and that helps me at tight end more than anyone could imagine.
Q: Head coach Bret Bielema said you initially turned down a move to tight end, what was the change in your mindset?
Derby: We’ve had some talks before. I’m a bull-headed person I always thought I could play quarterback at this level. We finally had enough talks and this was the best move for the team. I want to be an unselfish guy, a leader on the team. I want to do whatever can help this team win, so at the end of the day this is the best move.
Q: Quarterbacks obviously know the playbook really well, has that helped with remembering the plays at tight end?
Derby: Yeah, its been really easy. That’s probably what I’ve done best is knowing the plays. It’s all gone well, the run game and footwork are things I’ve never done before, but I think learning from Coach Lunney has made the move to tight end go smoothly.
Q: Arkansas has run a lot of trick plays last year, any plans for a tight end pass?
Derby: (laughs) I don’t know about that. I don’t think I could tell you if I did.