Marcus Caffey just wants to get on the football field for the University of Kentucky.
The 5-11, 201-pound freshman was a highly-regarded running back when he was recruited from Grady (Ga.) High School, and was considered one of the nation’s top 40 ball carriers by at least one recruiting site.
But after redshirting last year, Caffey was caught in a group of six running backs on scholarship and has moved to the other side of the ball in an effort to get his talent on the field.
“I just want to play,”¿Caffey said. “I hit the weight room hard in the offseason, and I've been learning a lot. I feel I can get out there and help the team.”
That’s exactly what new defensive backs coach Mike Cassity hopes Caffey can do.
“From what I've seen he's got size, he's got speed, he's got the athleticism,” said Cassity. “A lot of the things you look at in running backs are the same things you look at in cornerbacks. Anytime you have a larger corner it's a good thing.”
Both Caffey and Cassity are getting used to new positions this season. Cassity joined head coach Joker Phillips’ staff this spring, but his name is not unfamiliar to long-time Cats fans. He played at UK¿from 1971-74, and left his defensive backs¿coaching spot at Marshall to come to Lexington.
“I’m still learning the names, that's part of it, learning the talent level and everything else. Things have changed a lot around here in the last 30 years, but some things are still the same,” said Cassity. “The same towers that I ran around when I was a freshman are still here. There's no hedges anymore, nice fences now, but sure, a lot reminds me of when I played here.”
Cassity has to replace two cornerbacks lost to graduation — Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley — and senior Cartier Rice is the only returning player with experience at that position. That lack of experience in the defensive backfield is one of the main reasons for Caffey’s position switch.
“We did graduate some corners last years so we need some guys to step up and replace those guys,”¿said Cassity. “Athletically it looks like a good group, but like every team going into spring practice we have a lot to work on.”
Caffey, who has been timed under 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, said that’s the main reason he bought into the switch to defense.
“We lost some guys on defense and we need some people to take their place,” said Caffey. “I¿just want to get on the field, and this is a chance to do that. The coaches think it’s a good move for me, and I’ve been working hard to learn.”
Cassity said Caffey’s switch was made before he arrived at UK, but he said there’s potential there.
“He was a DB when i got here so he's just one of the guys I'm coaching right now,”¿said Cassity. “I can tell he's been an offensive player and there's some things that are new to him but he's athletic, he's got good turnover speed, he’s got a lot of things you look for in a defensive back.”