South Carolina has auditioned Brison Williams at cornerback so long that he’s starting to like it, but after looking at the Gamecocks’ new cornerbacks, he’s not sure if he will get to play there this season.
“They are all doing a fantastic job right now,” the senior said of freshmen Al Harris Jr., Chris Lammons and Wesley Green. “They are learning the playbook. They are carrying what we learned in the film room over to practice.”
Freshman defensive back D.J. Smith has yet to practice after having his wisdom teeth removed but is expected on the field this week.
Williams has started 24 games at safety for South Carolina but spent most of the spring working at cornerback in case the freshmen aren’t ready on opening day. For a while, he had no preference on position. That’s now changed, he said Sunday.
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“I am leaning a little towards corner right now,” he said. “I just kept getting better and better over the summer, so I kept leaning toward it, and I am doing a great job right now in camp.”
Coach Steve Spurrier has been so impressed with Harris Jr., Lammons and Green that he predicted Sunday that Williams will be heading back to safety this season.
“It didn’t take them long to show that they can play,” Spurrier said.
However, the Gamecocks’ defensive back rotation will depend on more than how the freshmen are performing, secondary coach Grady Brown said.
“What if (safeties) J.J. Marcus and Chaz Elder are playing at a really high level? What if (safety) T.J. Gurley is healthy and is playing at a high level? And what if they are playing better than Al Harris and Wesley Green?” Brown asked. “You have to make a decision of which four guys are playing at the highest level.”
Lammons and Green, four-star prep prospects, barely have had time to unpack in Columbia. Neither arrived until Thursday, hours before the team’s first practice, due to late academic qualification, but it hasn’t hurt their ability to compete for jobs, Lammons said.
“I think I’ve done very good,” Lammons said. “Coach Brown is teaching us the techniques to play. The things I need to work on are just getting the plays down, and we are getting good at that.”
There is no limit on how many freshmen might play in the defensive backfield this year, Brown said.
“Honestly, we would love it if all of them had to play because that would mean all of them are playing at a really high level, and you want as many good players as you can get,” Brown said.
That’s true for South Carolina early this season. The Gamecocks’ first two opponents, Texas A&M and East Carolina, finished 2013 seventh and 17th, respectively, in the nation last year in passes per game. The Pirates averaged 43.5 passes per game, and the Aggies averaged 37.6.
“We don’t have a ‘This person is going to redshirt’ mentality,” Brown said. “We are coaching all of them hard.”