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June 1, 2012

Four-star O'Daniel ready to embrace change

MORE: Five-Star Challenge | Underclassmen Challenge

Dallas Jackson is the National High School Sports Analyst for Rivals. Email him your questions and comments at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Olney (Md.) Good Counsel prospect Dorian O'Daniel is looking to take his relationship to the next level.

"I would say I am in lust right now, not in love," he said. "My whole, whole heart isn't there yet but it is close."

This has nothing to do with someone near and dear to O'Daniel, but in a change O'Daniel is trying to make from running back to linebacker.

And like any change, the heart has to be won over, even if the mind already knows the answer.

"In my head, I know that linebacker is what is best for me," O'Daniel said. "But running back is my first love. At this point I am still feeling out being a backer."

At 6-foot-1 and more than 200 pounds, O'Daniel has an athletic build that would allow him to do either, but the four-star prospect realizes that he is likely destined for the defensive side of the ball.

"After my first game last year I think that set me off," he said. "That is when I started to really feel my linebacker swag."

The Clemson commit will head to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta looking to help his heart bridge the gap his mind has crossed.

"To me, I am still too small to play linebacker like I would want to play it, like I see it being played," he said. "I am getting bigger and that helps and I am looking forward to going and competing with some of the best in the country.

"It is always amazing to be recognized as one of the elite players in the country. It is an honor to be selected and now I have to go and earn my place."

As the No. 37 overall player in the country, the selection to the invitation-only event should not have been a surprise. The lofty ranking comes with expectations, but O'Daniel is realistic.

"I just want to be myself down there," O'Daniel said. "I am not trying to impress anyone. I just want to be fundamentally sound and compete with those guys and raise my game."

As a former 1,000-yard rusher, O'Daniel said that his time in the backfield will help him at the June 22-24 event.

"An advantage I will have is that I will have an idea of where they want to go and what they want to do," he said. "Being a running back, I have speed so I think that a lot of guys will see a linebacker ... but I can run right with them."

There, for O'Daniel, is the problem.

"I just really like running back," he said. "Knowing that I can do it at that position but playing another is still hard for me."

It is a dilemma that may not be reconciled anytime soon.

"I am going to have to get it out of my mind," O'Daniel said. "When I am down there, I will have to stay focused on getting better at linebacker and not just getting better.

"I have to have my focus right and from there I think I will be successful."

Mike Farrell's take

O'Daniel is made for this setting because he's so good in coverage and in his drops. He's such an athletic kid he could play running back if needed or even slot receiver.

As a linebacker, he will be called up to check slot receivers, cover a lot of ground and keep track of speedy backs out of the backfield. In camps, he has shown he is up for the task. The only thing he lacks is weight and that won't be a factor here. In fact, by being lighter it will allow him to cover like a safety at the linebacker position.



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