D.J. Smith wants to be part of the solution to South Carolina's cornerback dilemma this fall.
The Gamecocks are replacing last year's starters, Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree, and the competition for playing time in the secondary will be a major storyline when preseason camp starts in two weeks.
"I don't want to redshirt," Smith said. "I want to try to start. Everybody wants to start when they come out of high school."
Smith, a four-star prospect from Marietta, Ga., enrolled at USC in July along with offensive lineman Donell Stanley and wide receiver Terry Googer.
He joins Al Harris Jr. as cornerback signees who were able to get on campus ahead of the Aug. 1 start of camp. USC is still waiting on the qualifying status of Wesley Green, Chris Lammons and Darin Smalls.
Smith was listed as 5-foot-11, 189-pounds when he signed with USC and said he's closer to 6 feet now. He expects the battle among the newcomers to be a good one.
"They're all just as good as me," he said. "We'll just have to see when we get up there who the best is. Everybody going to college is going to be tough."
Sophomore Rico McWilliams and senior Sidney Rhodes were listed with the first team on the depth chart released by USC at this week's SEC Media Days, ahead of sophomore Jamari Smith and redshirt freshman Ali Groves.
Senior Brison Williams could also move from safety to corner depending on how the cornerback competition shakes out in August.
Smith played safety, receiver and running back during his senior year at Walton High after being at corner as a sophomore and junior. He recorded 77 tackles with a pair of interceptions last season.
He spent the weeks leading up to July preparing himself for the move back to corner.
"I've been getting my feet right and have been practicing a lot more corner instead of safety," he said. "I'm up pressing. I'm not playing back as far. I had to get my mind straight. I'll be guarding the better and fastest receivers now."
Secondary coach Grady Brown's advice to Smith for the summer was to get rest, be ready to work on and off the field, and to stay on top of schoolwork once class begins.
Smith's recruiter, G.A. Mangus, is a fellow Walton High graduate.
"He's a great athlete and has played multiple positions in his career on the offensive side and defensive side of the ball," Mangus said. "He gives us great size at corner, great length. He's physical and hits like a safety. I think he's got a great future ahead of him."
Smith's goal for August is big but simple.
"Show coaches I'm the best corner so I can try to start," Smith said. "Show them that I'm the most physical. I want to be able to show them I'm the best corner out of the kids coming in out of the 2014 class, hopefully get a chance to get on the field and play early.
"I'm looking forward to adjusting to the speed of college, having fun in college and enjoying the experience. That's what I'm looking forward to the most."