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Arizona Cardinals

Updated Jun 6, 2012 - 2:17 pm

Cardinals rookie Justin Bethel making the 'big jump'

Justin Bethel is learning how to play safety at the NFL level. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

It is hard enough to make the transition from college to the NFL, even harder when a position change is thrown into the mix.

Welcome to Justin Bethel's world.

The Cardinals drafted the 21-year-old in the sixth round (177th overall) out of Presbyterian College.

Bethel played cornerback for much of his time at the private liberal arts school in Clinton, South Carolina. The Cardinals, however, are asking him to play safety.

"Playing safety is not something that I've always been doing," he said after a recent OTA practice. "I really just started actually getting to play safety now. I've been playing corner basically all the way up until my junior year. I really got thrown in to safety my senior year full time."

The switch from cornerback to safety doesn't sound like a big deal. After all, the two positions are both found in the defensive secondary.

Yet, Bethel says the transition is much more than just the 10 to 20 yards that separate the two spots on the field.

"I mean it's a big jump," said the 2011 Big South Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 87 tackles, four INTs and a sack.

"Knowing a lot of corner stuff in college where you don't really have to know as much, then going to safety in the league where I'm now responsible for making all the checks and making calls and knowing every where everybody has to be. It's just something I'm trying to adjust to and get used to doing."

Through three weeks of OTAs and a rookie mini camp, Bethel has opened the eyes of defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi.

"He's done a good job," said Cioffi, now entering his second season with the Cardinals. "He's in here working extra, watching film. He asks a lot of good questions."

According to Cioffi, a learning curve is expected with Bethel coming from a small school. But his ability to play multiple positions will only help him see the field more.

"A kid that has his athletic ability, that's what we want him for," said Cioffi. "We want him to be able to move inside to the hash and play safety and be able to cover that third or fourth wide receiver that comes into the game."

Bethel started 43 of 44 games during his career at Presbyterian. A run like that with the Cardinals may take him some time.

"There's still a lot of things that I need to learn. The coaches are helping me and the other players are helping me. I feel if I just keep getting into my books like I've been doing and keep studying and studying it'll start coming second nature.

"There's a lot of things I'm picking up now that I didn't know before. It's getting a little easier every time."

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