For two years now, Kevin Rutland has had an impressive label. Again and again, the sophomore from Galena Park in Texas has been called one of the best athletes on the Tiger team. What he has not had is a set position.
Rutland played cornerback as a true freshman. During his redshirt year in 2007, he moved to safety. Now, in spring football, Rutland is back at corner.
"I think they're fairly similar, but it's just something I know now," Rutland said. "I know safety and corner and I can play either one of them, but I'm playing corner now."
And playing it very well so far this spring. In the Tigers' second spring scrimmage, Rutland intercepted two passes. Even before that, Gary Pinkel had mentioned Rutland as a player that was having a standout spring.
"I think Rutland and Trey Hobson, they're both doing very well," said starting corner Carl Gettis. "They've both just stepped up and learned the position really fast."
Just how good is Rutland athletically? Last August, the Tigers used the 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back to impersonate Juice Williams in preparation for the game against Illinois. Williams is generally regarded as one of college football's most athletic quarterbacks.
"I do feel that's the best part of my game," Rutland said of his athleticism. "That's kind of God given, so I just thank God for that and use it to the best of my ability."
In high school, Rutland averaged eight yards per carry and scored six touchdowns on offense, but was also rated as the nation's No. 51 corner coming out of North Shore High School. With the graduation of Darnell Terrell and Paul Simpson, he knew there would be an opportunity to move up the depth chart this spring.
"The coaches moved me back to cornerback because of the depth chart and everything," Rutland said. "It's my third year here so it was about time I stepped up."
He has certainly done that so far this spring. Rutland is currently listed second on the depth at one cornerback spot and has been the fifth defensive back when the Tigers have gone to their nickel package on defense. At this point, he says he's pleased with his play, but is keeping his goals fairly simple.