On Tobias Oliver’s switch to wide receiver

Georgia Tech's Tobias Oliver (8) runs with the ball as North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt (21) tackles . (Special-John Amis)
Georgia Tech's Tobias Oliver (8) runs with the ball as North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt (21) tackles . (Special-John Amis)

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

Given the opportunity Wednesday, Georgia Tech’s newest wide receiver wasn’t interested in making a fuss over his position switch. That’s standard for Tobias Oliver, typically low-key and team-first.

Moving from quarterback, where he had started two games this season? Not a big deal.

“I guess it feels good to know where I’m at right now, but we’ve had several guys all over the team that are playing multiple positions, so it’s not like it’s uncommon that I’m playing a different position,” Oliver said Wednesday following practice.

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A year ago, Oliver looked like the successor to then-starter TaQuon Marshall at quarterback. But, a change in coaches and schemes appears to have changed his course. Oliver played quarterback throughout the spring and preseason, sometimes taking occasional snaps elsewhere, and started against Clemson in the season opener. He backed up Lucas Johnson in the second and third games and started the fourth game of the season, against Temple, but was replaced by James Graham.

Graham’s play has apparently earned him the No. 1 quarterback spot. The season-ending injury to wide receiver Jalen Camp and the desire for coaches to get Oliver onto the field has routed him to receiver, where position coach Kerry Dixon has been happy to receive him.

“He’s one of the best natural athletes I’ve ever been around,” Dixon said Monday on coach Geoff Collins’ radio show. “Extremely competitive.”

On Saturday against North Carolina, Oliver caught his first career pass (Oliver’s summation: “It was pretty nice”) and also continued to work at kick returner. He also took a handful of snaps at quarterback. Collins said that Oliver’s role will “absolutely” expand. Collins has praised Oliver repeatedly for his athletic ability, competitiveness and team-first mindset.

“You’ll see him doing different things for us,” Collins said. “Don’t want to give too much away, but we’re being creative just like we always are and being innovative, and when you have someone like that with his skill set, (we’re) trying to make sure we showcase that for himself and for the betterment of the team, too.”

Being willing to make the transition away from quarterback is not to be taken for granted. It’s not uncommon for quarterbacks who lose their job to start plotting their transfer. Oliver’s overriding interest appears to simply be to find a position where he can stick and develop.

Oliver has been working extra after practice to learn the position from Dixon. Learning how to extricate himself from cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage has been among his bigger challenges.

“Every receiver has their own way of getting separation, so it’s just finding what I want to do and perfecting it,” Oliver said.

Having come from quarterback, Oliver already has an in-depth knowledge of the offense, reading coverages and understanding where the quarterback will want him to go. It is a help that, when he played for Baylor, Dixon made the same switch from quarterback to receiver.

“I’m enjoying the process,” Oliver said. “There comes a rough patch when there’s transition from position to position, but I have pretty good coaches around me that have been in the same position, so it’s not as bad.”

Dixon appears to be enjoying it, also.

“I understand some of the emotions of it as far as moving positions and having to learn different techniques when you’ve been doing something for so long,” Dixon said. “But he’s just so skillful. Natural ball skills, great feet. I think the sky’s the limit for him at this position.”