Jamari Smith moved to cornerback because “that’s where the money is,” he said. If they’re not careful, other South Carolina players might end up making the same position move because secondary coach Grady Brown grabs them by the ear and drags them there.
“We have to get the best four guys on the field,” Brown said. “Until we find that best fit, we probably will not be done with experimenting guys with different positions.”
As spring practice begins for the Gamecocks, that means starting safety Brison Williams is getting plenty of snaps with the second-team cornerbacks. This fall, Williams could be in one of the starting cornerback positions, Brown said.
“It’s good to know you have a guy like Brison Williams that knows the entire defense and really can play either position,” Brown said. “It’s really about what the position looks like when we get to fall camp. When we get to fall camp and get the different (freshmen) in here, we will put the best guys on the field.”
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For now, sophomore Rico McWilliams and senior Sidney Rhodes are the starting cornerbacks, with Smith closing strong on Rhodes after being bounced from tailback to cornerback and back to tailback last season.
“I made the choice right after the regular season that I wanted to play corner, so I talked to the coaches and they allowed me to,” said Smith, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry in limited duty at running back last year. “I feel that is where the money is. And it’s a great opportunity. It’s wide open right now.”
Smith has all the physical tools needed to be a good cornerback but is hindered by a lack of experience, Brown said.
“He didn’t play (the position) much in high school,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a process where he just has to understand the footwork and the technique and the fundamentals of the position. He’s a very talented athlete from a physical standpoint. He just has to learn the techniques and the fundamentals.”
Smith is studying film of former Gamecock cornerbacks Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree, he said.
“I am focused on starting and getting as much (playing time) as I can,” he said, adding he expects this to be his final position move.
McWilliams has been a cornerback since he arrived on campus, but he has been limited most of that time because of a knee injury. McWilliams suffered a season-ending knee injury in his second collegiate practice, which forced him to miss all of the 2012 season and slowed him throughout the 2013 season. He played in nine games, mostly on special teams, and finished the season with one tackle.
The first two practices of spring are the first times he has felt 100 percent healthy since the 2012 knee injury, McWilliams said.
“I’ve got a good opportunity right now,” he said. “I just have to keep doing what I do best and stay focused and everything should play out well. Right now. I am just worried about what the coaches have planned. I can’t focus on being a starter. I just have to work my tail off and everything will play out how it should play out.”