The talk about playing two ways has happened a few times between SMU coach June Jones and cornerback Kenneth Acker, but something always seemed to get in the way of it ever happening.
But now that Acker is going into his senior season, the Mustangs are going to try to get one of their best players on the field as much as possible. Acker is lining up at receiver this spring in the hopes of being able to continue as a starting cornerback while moonlighting as a pass catcher once the season begins.
Acker was dynamic with the ball in his hands at high school, racking up nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards his senior year, playing at the same high school Jones played at in Portland, Ore. But when he arrived in Dallas, coaches wanted him to focus on the defensive side of the ball and play cornerback, a position he was not as skilled at.
He has worked hard to become one of the top players at his position, earning second-team All-Conference USA honors this past season. Jones wants to look at some of the younger cornerbacks on his team this spring, and he has some holes to fill at receiver so he figured he would give Acker a shot on offense.
In describing how the conversation went down, Jones said with a laugh, "I told him, and I didn’t care if he was happy."
Acker is happy.
"A lot of schools out of high school were talking to me about playing both ways, but as my college career went on, it went out of my head," Acker said in a recent phone interview. "Coach Jones had already brought it up last spring that he was going to have me do some stuff and then we had a couple guys go down so then he backed off that.
A couple months ago he brought me into his office, I went in there checking up with him and he just told me he was going to have me go out for receiver in spring. I was thankful for the opportunity."
Acker worked with the receivers before spring practice started, and focused mainly on how they ran routes. Specifically -- where they lined up to start their routes.
"If you’re not lined up in the right spot the whole play is messed up," Acker said. "I was relying on the little stuff so when I got on the field with the coaches I would look like I was in the right spot, so the beginning part that some people would have to learn, I could just go past that so I could go right into learning the scheme instead of having to learn little stuff and falling behind. I tried to get myself ahead and not come in here as a rookie or a new guy."
His first goal was not to drop a pass on Day 1. Mission accomplished.
"I’m trying to build on that," Acker said. "If I don’t drop any balls, that’s a good day in my eyes."
The next question, of course, is whether Acker could start both ways.
"I’m anxious to see if he can," Jones said. "I think he has the talent to start for us. He helps us the most at corner, and if he played 10-15 plays on offense, then that makes us better, too."