A player transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver is not unheard of.
West Virginia University is home to one of the most well-known examples in recent college football history. David Sills V, as you may have heard, was recruited as a 13-year-old to play quarterback at USC. Sills wound up as a Biletnikoff Award finalist with the Mountaineers in 2017, and is currently a wide receiver for the New York Giants in the NFL.
Rodney Gallagher III, another talented high school quarterback, is making the same position change with West Virginia this year. Luckily for Gallagher, the Pride of Uniontown, his position coach has direct knowledge of that very position switch.
“It is a big adjustment, but it’s easier if you’re a true quarterback moving to receiver, because you understand the grand scheme of the offense and the grand scheme of things,” West Virginia wide receivers coach Bilal Marshall said.
Gallagher began his high school career as a wideout, but made the transition from pass catcher to passer. This summer has been all about him making the switch back to the position he played initially.
The Laurel Highlands High School three-sport athlete was a four-star prospect in the eyes of 247Sports, ESPN, and Rivals. He was rated as the No. 177 player in the country on the Class of 2023 ESPN300. Most recruiting sites listed him as an athlete, though it was understood he would most likely begin his collegiate career as a wide receiver.
“For a guy that hasn’t played the position for a long time, he really is starting to understand how to play the position,” Marshall said. “He has a knack for being able to get in and out of breaks. I knew he was quick, I knew he was twitchy. He catches the ball really well.”
Marshall was rated as the No. 18 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals coming out of Dade Christian School (FL) in 2012. He tossed 17 touchdowns and threw for just under 1,300 yards his senior year before heading to Purdue.
It was with the Boilermakers he made the switch to wide receiver. He has stuck with the position group ever since, first as a player, then as a graduate assistant, and now as a full-time wide receivers coach with WVU.
“The biggest challenge is learning how to get in and get out of routes. From a quarterback standpoint, you’re just the athlete out there running if you got the ball in your hands,” he said. “But if you’re playing receiver, you got to understand how to get in and get out of breaks, understand leverage of a defender, and just all the intricacies of playing receiver.”
Gallagher was the more accomplished high school player. He finished his high school career with 3,014 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes. Gallagher also rushed for 2,376 yards and 40 touchdowns, and logged 890 receiving yards on 56 catches for 11 touchdowns as a wideout.
Marshall said Gallagher is ahead of where he thought he would be as a receiver.
Not only can Gallagher catch the ball, but he is being praised for his blocking abilities. Earlier this month, Neal Brown said the freshman wideout has “been more physical” than anticipated. Gallagher has added 12 to 14 pounds since joining the program. Marshall noted Gallagher is unafraid to “put his face in it” on blocking assignments.
“He’s been more physical, and he’s made a couple of really contested catches over the middle [of the field],” Brown said.
Marshall feels one of the top advantages for a player, like Gallagher, making the switch from quarterback to wide receiver is he has a better idea of the offense, and how all 11 positions work together on each play.
In addition to working with the wide receivers, Gallagher has also taken reps as a returner on special teams. It’s another way he could see the field in his debut season with the Mountaineers.
“I’m excited to watch him grow in the near future,” said Marshall.