Less a trend or innovation at the quarterback position, moving your top athlete to quarterback is the best option for getting the ball in their hands on every snap.
This season, three receivers who converted to quarterback — RaJa Nelson of Lakeville North, Jaice Miller of Champlin Park and Russell Corrigan of Hutchinson — have excelled in their new roles. The seniors have combined for 1,928 yards of offense and 31 touchdowns. Their teams are a combined 11-1 and rank in the top 10 of their respective classes.
For the athletes, the transition comes with challenges, from learning the entire playbook to reading defenses to absorbing bigger hits. But all three players have enjoyed their journeys.
"Life's a little better at quarterback," Corrigan said. "You're not treated any differently or anything. It's just more fun to have the ball in your hands on every play."
Late to the party
Nelson, a receiver/running back, totaled 1,370 yards and 28 touchdowns as undefeated Lakeville North won the Class 6A Prep Bowl last year. He also was a top-level cornerback.
He learned only months before the start of this season that he was moving to quarterback, but it didn't faze him.
"I thought, 'I can do this,' " Nelson said. "But at the same time, it's challenging because I have to know everyone's assignments and I'm telling people where to go.
"I'd always joked about wanting to play quarterback," Nelson said. "So it's ironic that it happened."
Through four games this season, Nelson leads the Panthers, 4-0 and the top-ranked Class 6A team, with 347 rushing yards.
Coach Brian Vossen called Nelson "an extreme weapon running the football. But if he couldn't throw the ball, we wouldn't play him there."
The 5-11, 185-pound Nelson, who has verbally committed to North Dakota State as a receiver, has thrown for 271 yards and said he's "getting there" in terms of reading defenses.
"But I'm still like a Kyler Murray," Nelson said, referring to the Arizona Cardinals quarterback. "I still like using my feet when I need to."
Passing it on
Miller quarterbacked the freshman "B" team and sophomore "A" team before moving to receiver last fall. Working with then-senior quarterback Bennett Otto smoothed the transition and garnered college attention for the 6-4, 195-pound Miller.
"[Otto] put the ball where it needed to be every time," said Miller, who caught 53 passes for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Miller took snaps in two games last year in preparation for moving full-time to quarterback this season. His anticipated triumphant return wasn't so smooth.
"The first game, I was not ready," said Miller, who completed two of his five passing attempts for 62 yards against East Ridge. "I thought it was going to be easy having the experience last year. I couldn't read anything, and it was super fast. But I think I have control of it now."
The numbers back Miller's self-assessment. Miller is tied for third among Class 6A quarterbacks with seven passing touchdowns and his 602 passing yards ranks fifth.
The learning continues. After Miller threw three interceptions for the No. 10 Rebels (3-1) in a loss to Centennial, Rebels coach Nick Keenan reminded him "we don't always need a big play."
Miller responded the next week with 152 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Osseo.
"At quarterback you have to be able to talk to all the coaches about what you're seeing and what they're seeing," Miller said. "You have a lot of responsibility and a lot more trust."
'A big ol' turkey'
Corrigan tried out for quarterback without success as a freshman, played there sparingly as a sophomore and was considered the Tigers' backup last season.
The 6-4, 240-pound Corrigan did his best work at tight end, which he believed positioned him well for quarterback success.
"You know all the routes, and you know what the linemen are doing," said Corrigan, who has verbally committed to Boise State as a tight end.
Corrigan has passed for 237 yards and one touchdown and run for 280 yards and 12 touchdowns for Hutchinson (4-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 4A.
"I'm used to taking hits," Corrigan said. "Whether I have to get around or through somebody, I'm trying to get to the end zone."
Tigers coach Andy Rostberg said Corrigan is "a big ol' turkey" who "can rumble downhill pretty well."
In 2011, Rostberg moved junior all-conference linebacker McKinley Anderson to quarterback. One season later, Anderson ran for 250 yards in the state tournament and led Hutchinson to the Class 4A Prep Bowl crown.
Playing for a traditional run-heavy program, Corrigan said playing tight end meant he was "basically a lineman who could catch." But Rostberg said switching Corrigan to quarterback doesn't mean it comes at the expense of the desire to pass the ball as needed.
"He's not a tight end playing quarterback; he's a quarterback playing quarterback," Rostberg said. "He's by far our best player at that position."