"Ain't too many corners right now," says redshirt sophomore cornerback Rico McWilliams, squinting into the afternoon sun. "So me, Jamari, and Brison are getting all the reps right now."
This is the central storyline of South Carolina's 2014 preseason. McWilliams is the lone returning scholarship cornerback from the 2013 squad. Jamari Smith and Brison Williams have plenty of upside but are on loan from other positions. After moving from cornerback to running back and back to cornerback in less than 365 days on campus, Smith is likely in the defensive backfield to stay. So is Brison Williams, but he's probably moving back to safety once fall practice begins.
Still, cross-training Williams at corner will make the senior more versatile and will make him better prepared than other South Carolina safeties have been in the past.
"I was telling the guys in a meetings today that my first year here (2011) playing against the University of Tennessee we played D.J. [Swearinger] at corner -- and D.J. hadn't taken one practice rep at corner, but it was of necessity," says secondary coach Grady Brown. "We needed to put him in there."
As a rising senior, Williams definitely has a strong enough grasp of the defense to be able to comprehend the responsibilities of multiple positions. "Brison is a guy that pretty much understands the entire defense," says Brown. "So he has the mental aptitude to play a couple of different positions, and he obviously has the physical ability to play different positions." McWilliams is a bit more emphatic, insisting that Williams "might be the smartest [player] on both sides of the ball."
Where does Brison Williams prefer? "I'm liking corner a lot, so I'd probably want to play corner." Hasn't played CB at Carolina, did in HS.— Ryan Wood (@rwood_SC) March 25, 2014
Meanwhile, Grady Brown says that Jamari Smtih's performance has been typical of a talented player who still has to fully grasp the fundamentals of his position:
Jamari is coming along. The thing about getting a lot of reps when you're not ready is that you will make a lot of mistakes. And when you're a guy wants to do things the right way, which he does -- he wants to have an opportunity to play, he wants to help his team win -- I think when he makes a lot of mistakes and I have to correct him a lot, it kinda frustrates him because it's not the way he wants to do it and the way we all want him to do it. With a lot of reps comes a lot of mistakes, but those are mistakes that he needs to make right now so he can see them on film and get them corrected.
South Carolina enters 2014 with a handful of undersized defensive ends. Much has been made of how the Gamecocks will attempt to develop the likes of Darius English, Cedrick Cooper, and Mason Harris and how they will modify their defensive scheme to accommodate the talent on hand.
"I have to gain at least 20 pounds," says Cedrick Cooper. "Right now I'm at about, like, 230-235. I want to get up to, like, 245-250."
The redshirt sophomore, who has moved over from linebacker following the 2013 season, says that South Carolina first considered the idea of using him at defensive end when he entered the game in the Gamecocks' "smoke" package against Florida. He came off the edge and disrupted a play.
"They said I looked good coming off the edge. They was like, 'Do you want to try it?' I played it in high school, so I was like, 'Yeah, I'll make a move.'"
South Carolina's 3-4 package is called 'Money' and features a Bob position (Big Ol' Backer), hybrid DE/LB.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) March 25, 2014
South Carolina enters the 2014 season with a wealth of interior defensive line talent, more than enough linebackers to go around, and a handful of talented but undersized pass-rushers at defensive end. How Lorenzo Ward will attempt to utilize the mixture of skills remains to be seen, but there is expected to be at least some variation in the defensive fronts that the Gamecocks have shown in past seasons.