Spring football practice, a time to experiment and explore possibilities, typically yields surprises. Appalachian State, which wrapped up spring drills last week, might have found a hidden and helpful gem in Conway High School product Michael Frazier.
Frazier, a sparsely used strong safety, has found a new opportunity. He moved to offense a little more than a week ago as an H-back - a hybrid fullback and tight end - and is now working at running back, too.
"I love it," Frazier said. "One of the coaches came to me and asked me, and left it up to me, if I wanted to play offense. I'm happy with the opportunity."
The original thought was to try Frazier, a 6-foot, 200-pound junior who was The Sun News' Toast of the Coast Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, at H-back, but Chris Moore, the Mountaineers' running backs coach, "stuck him in" at running back to add some depth when some of the primary backs weren't at practice because of class schedules.
Frazier had 11 tackles last season, down from 31 his freshman season on special teams and as a bandit linebacker.
Moore said he liked what he saw from Frazier at running back.
"He's going to get on the field," Moore said. "He's going to help us."
Frazier played some fullback in high school, but the position is mostly new to him.
"I was a rover on defense in high school, but I did play a little running back, and I was a quarterback until the 10th grade, so picking up things on offense hasn't been too difficult," Frazier said.
Frazier is still playing some H-back but is now in the mix at running back.
"He'll probably be like a hybrid," Moore said. "We can put him in a wing spot, he can make a down block, and he's a better receiver than what we thought he might be.
"What he really brings to both positions, though, is that he's a hard-nosed player, he really likes the contact, and he's an athlete. We haven't had too many guys as physical and nasty as he plays.
"We knew he'd give us that, but I'm surprised with the running back skills he has. He brings us a fullback-type mentality, and he's picked things up well. He runs the zone, plays well, and he gives us a nice option. Plus, I think he's tired of watching and wants to get on the field."
Frazier said: "In some ways, it's not that different from playing defense; you get to block a lot and hit people doing that. That's always fun."
His versatility will help, with the Mountaineers already stocked with experienced running backs in Travaris Cadet, Cedric Baker and emerging Rod Chisholm.
"They've accepted me just like I've been there the whole time, and the coaches keep talking to me and are helping me learn and get better," Frazier said. "I'm not worried about being a star or anything. I'm just happy for the opportunity, and I want to make the most of it."