Tony Lippett, primarily a receiver at Michigan State, began his transition to NFL cornerback with an interception at Friday’s rookie minicamp, though he was also beaten on some completions.
One of the Dolphins’ four fifth-round draft picks, Lippett already has a head start on his switch to defense, having played cornerback during his freshman season and the final four games of 2014.
“It’s definitely an adjustment [but] I have a good comfort level,” he said.
The Dolphins’ tallest cornerback at 6-3, Lippett said the biggest adjustment to cornerback is “not turning my head when I see the receiver break. I’m used to turning my head.”
He said his experience at receiver will help him at cornerback because, “I know certain things with wide receivers, when they want to break.”
His move to cornerback late last season at Michigan State “wasn’t really my decision” but he’s OK with it.
The Dolphins’ coaches and front office are intrigued. “We just thought this guy had potential. We really like him,” coach Joe Philbin said.
General manager Dennis Hickey said in evaluating Lippett at cornerback, he liked “how natural he looked. He didn’t look out of place. He’s got length, he’s got ball skills, he’s a fluid athlete.”
The Dolphins were non-committal about the future of receiver Rishard Matthews, who has asked for a trade or his release because he wants to play more.
Asked whether Matthews will be on the team to start training camp, Hickey said: “It’s a competitive situation. There are a lot of things that have to be played out before we get to our 53-man roster.”
▪ What undrafted rookies are the Dolphins especially excited about? Hickey mentioned the linebackers ‒ all four of whom ranked in the top 14 in college football in tackles last season: Penn State’s Mike Hull, Cincinnati’s Jeff Luc, Utah State’s Zach Vigil and Marshall’s Neville Hewitt. “It’s a good group; I like the way they did things today,” Philbin said of the four linebackers.
The other undrafted free agents who signed contracts with Miami: receivers Christion Jones (Alabama), Nigel King (Kansas) and Damarr Aultman (Maine); offensive linemen Aundrey Walker (Southern Carolina), Dionte Savage (Oklahoma), Mickey Baucus (Arizona) and Michael Liedtke (Illinois State); defensive ends Ray Drew (Georgia) and Kendall Montgomery (Bowling Green); defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy (UCLA); kicker Andrew Franks (RPI) and punter Matt Darr (Tennessee).
▪ Another 26 players participated on a tryout basis, including quarterbacks Hunter Mason (Georgia) and Chase Rettig (Boston College) and two former UM basketball players who never played in a college football game: 6-9 tight end Raphael Akpejiori and defensive end Joe Thomas, who played for the UM basketball team last season after transferring from Niagara.
The Dolphins also are giving a tryout to FIU offensive lineman David Delsoin, FAU center Braden Lyons, Florida tight end Tevin Westbrook and Fort Lewis (Colorado) guard Arthur Ray, who was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after accepting a scholarship to Michigan State in 2007, then underwent nine surgeries on his left leg in two years.
▪ Four players who ended last season with the Dolphins also are permitted to participate in this two-day camp: receivers Matt Hazel and Tyler McDonald and defensive end Emmanuel Dieke and safety Shamiel Gary. Hazel was impressive Friday.
▪ Hickey said “we were very excited” that running back Jay Ajayi “was still there in the fifth round. He brings the ability to play all three downs. He’s a power back but yet still has elusiveness.”