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January 24, 2012
Up and coming: Bradley Sylve
A thousand things went through Bradley Sylve's mind last fall when he was summoned to Nick Saban's office.
When you're a freshman football player at the University of Alabama, getting called in for a one-on-one with the head coach can be scary.
"My heart was driving," Sylve said in New Orleans a few days before the Crimson Tide's Bowl Championship Series national title victory over LSU. "I hoped I didn't mess up or something.
"It turned out to be a good thing."
The 5-foot-11 rookie from Port Sulpher, La., got the call in Week 5 of the regular season, when Alabama was preparing to play at Florida. Saban wanted Sylve, a speedy prospect who had been working at wideout, to consider a move to the defensive backfield.
"He called me and asked if I wanted to play (defense)," Sylve recalled. "I was like, 'I don't know, Coach, I'm feeling this wide receiver position.' Then he said, 'I really need you to come on this other side,' and I said, 'I'll go ahead and do this for you' - even though that's what I wanted to do anyway.
"He said it was up to me whether I wanted to play DB or not, so I told him that's what I felt comfortable at and that's where I wanted to play. So I moved over, and that's where I'm at now."
At cornerback going into 2012, Alabama will be replacing Dre Kirkpatrick, who opted out of his senior season to make himself eligible for the National Football League draft, and both DeQuan Menzie and Phelon Jones, who just completed their senior seasons. The early returns on Sylve's chances to work into the playing rotation are positive.
"Bradley did a great job transitioning over," UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said before the BCS game. "He didn't go to camp with us. He was a wideout, and now he's becoming a good corner for us, taking a lot of reps.
"Reminds me of a lot what Dre did when he was a freshman, when we had Javi (Javier Arenas) and Kareem (Jackson) and all those guys. He's taken a lot of reps in learning the defense, which is really important, and we haven't had to play him."
Sylve sat out 2011 as a redshirt, but he has his eye on playing time for next season.
"We have three of our DBs that are leaving, so that's going to give me a good opportunity to step in," he said. "That's what I'm trying to do."
Changing positions in midseason is nothing knew for Sylve, who started his senior year at South Plaquemines High School at receiver before switching to quarterback after five games to lead his team to a second-place finish in the state playoffs.
He was ranked as the No. 122 overall prospect in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 14 at receiver. He signed with Alabama over LSU, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Stanford and Nebraska, among others.
Speed isn't an issue for Sylve. In track and field, he was clocked at 10.18 seconds in the 100-meter dash and at 21.25 in the 200.
"I ran the 40(-yard dash) in my 10th-grade year when I was at LSU camp, and they clocked me at 4.39," Sylve said. "I have never run it since then, but I think I got faster."
On the other hand, Sylve knows he needs to get stronger.
"I'm kind of small," he said. "I'm in the weight room now. I'm 175 and trying to get to 185 for next year. I think that would be a nice size for me."
Sylve also has his eye on earning a spot on Alabama's kickoff and punt return teams next season.
"I tried to get on there this year, but with the move to DB they didn't want to blow my redshirt," he said.
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.