South Carolina Football: What about Bruce Ellington playing Cornerback?


While trolling through the message boards yesterday - looking for prime, grade-A links, or a least a nice amuse-bouche to serve as an afternoon palate-cleanser - I ran across a poster at Gamecock Central's Fighting Gamecock Forum who said the "word on the street" was that Bruce Ellington would be moved to cornerback in 2012.

Now when anyone says the "word on the street", I always look for the closest canister of Morton's salt (When it rains it pours) - except, of course, when I say its the "word on the street"; then you can bank on it.

My b.s. radar is on doubly high alert when I run across the unsubstantiated, and un-linked musings of FGF posters. At that point I choke down enough iodized sodium chloride to cure a hundred goiters.

So I am emphatically not saying this rumor is the least bit true. A Google search failed to produce so much as a single report substantiating - or even merely repeating - the idea. It's probably bunk. After all, there's no guarantee Bruce will ever return to the gridiron. We may even need his football roster spot to make our 2012 recruiting numbers work and Darrin Horn has two open schollies right now anyway (grumble, cough, grumble).

But all that being said, I am extremely curious about the idea of Bruce playing as a defensive back. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to me.

Last season, we carried ten CB's on the roster. As you know, three left the program - C.C. Whitlock (graduated), Martay Markett (transferred) and Stephon Gilmore (declared for NFL). In terms of veterans, that leaves only two upperclassman - RS Sr Akeem Auguste and RS Jr. Jimmy Legree who are certainly going to be starters (or in the two-deep at the minimum). The other veterans are all RS sophomores or sophomores (Victor Hampton, Ahmad Christian, Ben Harvery and Kedetrix Marcus); of that group, only Hampton has seen significant p.t.

We did pick up pledges from recruits Chaz Elder and Rico McWilliams - who are both projected as corners (though most of the recruiting services say Elder is more suited to the Safety or Spur position).

By missing out on recruit Chris Moody to Vanderbilt this week, however, we'll be entering 2012 with just eight dedicated cornerbacks - only three of whom (Auguste, Legree and Hampton) have much game experience. Not to sound alarmist, but that's probably a little more thin than we would like - particularly if McWilliams is going to be red-shirted.

So ... what about Bruce Ellington as a corner? I know the casual fan all too often thinks the transition from WR to CB is easier than it is in real life. But it does happen. And Ellington is an especially gifted natural athlete, who has demonstrated he can play high-end D1 ball as a wildcat QB, WR, and return specialist (not to mention point guard on the hardwood). Why would he not succeed at Cornerback?

We are much deeper at WR, so it would limit his p.t. if he remained on offense - notwithstanding his heroic catch in the CU game. With Connor Shaw becoming more and more proficient at the zone-read, we really don't need to rely as much on Bruce as Wildcat (though he can still play that role if needed - just like Gilmore did).

Plus, at 5'10" Bruce is a bit on the short side to project as a WR in the NFL. As a Cornerback, however, Bruce might just write himself a ticket to a long NFL career, where pure athleticism is still enough to get you on the field as a CB even if you don't top six feet (Darrelle Revis is 5'11", e.g.). if Bruce wants to play pro ball in the USA, it's going to be the NFL or bust; he isn't going to make an NBA roster. Why not give himself a better chance to make an NFL club?

Bruce would have to learn the position, and that would take time. It's also true that he did not appear to play much defense in high school. There is no knowing if he would be good. But if he did transition, he would get to work directly with Coach Ward who knows his stuff despite all the grumbling in 2010. Plus, Bruce is a natural, instinctive football player - and he plays hard all the time. I like his chances to flourish as a defensive back. He would also still be available for return duties on special teams.

Seriously, it seems like a great idea. Too bad I didn't think of it first. Hold the salt, please!

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