Inside Slant: Could two-way play be a trend to jump to NFL?

UCLA running back Paul Perkins was in the middle of one of the best games of his young career against a stingy defense. Senior Jordan James was averaging over eight yards a carry in the same contest. But in the fourth quarter of a close game last Saturday against Texas, Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone kept both of his tailbacks on the sideline.

On a key fourth-and-1 just outside the red zone, out came linebacker Myles Jack to pick up nine yards and a first down. Later, with the clock ticking down toward double-zeros and needing a first down to seal the win up, out came defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes to convert a fourth-and-short with a blast up the middle.

The use of two-way players is nothing new in college football, but it has become more trendy as of late since the days of everybody fawning over Owen Marecic getting snaps as a fullback and linebacker at Stanford four years ago. UCLA has several who see action on offense and defense, but they're hardly alone, especially in the Pac-12.

Washington's Shaq Thompson has the stats at linebacker, his primary position, and running back (a touchdown and 13.7 yards a carry). Fellow Husky John Ross is a big play waiting to happen on offense, but he also moonlights as a defensive back. True freshman Adoree' Jackson splits his time three-ways -- factoring in special teams -- for USC. Hawaii's Scott Harding sees time as a wide receiver, return man and even at punter (yes, punter). Pitt running back James Conner just broke a record held by Tony Dorsett but will see snaps at defensive end when needed.

"He's still practicing it," Panthers coach Paul Chryst noted last week. "I think there's no doubt in my mind there will be games where he'll be doing both."

Last Sunday, we saw the NFL get in on the two-way action. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was given the opportunity to play offense against the Oakland Raiders, and he made the most of his opportunity.

Who else could get consideration on both sides of the ball, not just in college but possibly the NFL at some point? Here are several college players that might be able to attempt it:

DE Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State: He is similar in size to Vanderdoes and is underrated athletically as the son of the former Dallas Cowboys defensive back of the same name. Edwards could be a big running back near the goal line, a position he also played in high school.

CB Ronald Darby, Florida State: One of the quickest defensive backs in the country, he could wind up as a nice option at slot receiver. He took snaps on offense in high school at running back.

OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia: At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Floyd is a terrorizing pass rusher off the edge, but he could be an athletic threat at tight end if a team needs a boost at the position.

TE Jay Rome, Georgia: If Floyd sees snaps at tight end, where Rome currently plays for the Bulldogs, perhaps Rome could take some snaps as a defensive end or outside linebacker given his size and quickness.

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: Already known for being a freak on defense, the former high school running back could make an impact at the same spot if somebody gave him a chance.

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: One of the few quarterbacks who could probably play two-ways, he's fast (4.6 40-yard dash), freakish (38-inch vertical jump, 510-pound squats) and smart enough to the degree he could be a safety in a pinch.

RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: The running back position is so devalued nowadays that maybe the Alabama star could see if he can play safety. He's got the speed, size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and smarts to do it with a little coaching.

WR Nelson Agholor, USC: While Jackson gets the press for playing as a wideout and defensive back for the Trojans, Agholor has many of the same skills and it wouldn't take much to play him as a roaming safety in the right coverages.

DL Ellis McCarthy, UCLA: The Bruins need help along the offensive line and McCarthy has the right build and hip flexibility to provide a boost along the opposite line if Jim Mora's squad needs it.

WR Daje Johnson, Texas: His play-making skills are needed on offense for the Longhorns once he returns from suspension, but his natural position is as a cornerback in the mold of Chargers rookie Jason Verrett.

Perhaps, like the no-huddle and spread offenses we've seen filter up from college to the NFL recently, so too will the trend of playing guys both ways. With limited roster sizes, it makes sense for some coaches to give it a shot, but it would take a special type of player to pull it off at the next level.

It's one thing to be an NFL-caliber player at one position, it's another to pull it off at two.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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