UCLA has done this before. There was Darius Bell, who transferred in, switched positions, and left Westwood with 302 receiving yards and a touchdown. There is Devin Fuller, who ranked second on the team with 59 catches as a junior last season.
As far as quarterback-to-receiver projects go, the Bruins haven’t fared too badly. Next up is Aaron Sharp, who signed as a three-star recruit in 2014. After spotting as a scout-team target late last season, the Houston-area product has all but made the pass-catching transition final.
The Bell-Fuller-Sharp trio shares at least one physical trait, according to receivers coach Eric Yarber.
“All those guys had good lower trunks,” he said. “They could drop their weight and separate real well. … Aaron Sharp has that same type of build. It’s not going to be a big learning curve.”
Like Bell and Fuller before him, Sharp flashes athletic ability and a natural feel for the position — despite the fact that his only prior experience at receiver came as a 7-year-old playing catch with his brothers. Through two weeks of spring camp, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder has been a pleasant surprise working primarily out of the slot.
The next step for him will be shedding some understandable doubt. When asked last week, Sharp would not rule out returning to quarterback in the future, framing his move as a sort of trial period that he’s undergone because he isn’t getting reps behind center.
Still, it’s a good bet that Sharp’s future is brighter when he is running routes. As he practices more, the nuances of the position should gradually become second nature.
“He’s thinking all the time,” Yarber said. “I can’t see his 21.1 200 speed because he’s thinking all the time. He’s seeing it from a different perspective.”