COLUMBIA - Grady Brown doesn't know how the experiment will end, but South Carolina's secondary coach is open to changes for arguably his top defensive back.
Brison Williams is the wild card in the Gamecocks' defense this spring. The senior is a hard-hitting safety, starting 23 of South Carolina's 25 games over the past two seasons. He was expected to keep his starting job entering his senior season.
So it was impossible to ignore when Williams started lining up at cornerback during spring practices, a position he hasn't played at South Carolina. Brown said Williams may play cornerback this fall, leaving his safety duties to someone else.
"It depends on the development of all the other guys," Brown said. "The four best players will be on the field, in no particular position. Whoever's playing the best, those are the four guys who will be on the field."
Williams could fill a major need at cornerback. The Gamecocks are down to three healthy scholarship corners this spring with Rico McWilliams, Jamari Smith and Sidney Rhodes. McWilliams is the only player among the three who has started a game, and he's only started twice.
South Carolina will welcome five freshman cornerbacks this summer, including a trio of four-star prospects. The freshmen could play early and often, but their development isn't the only factor influencing where Williams will play. Equally important, Brown said, is whether South Carolina has good options to replace Williams at safety.
Sophomore Chaz Elder is the apparent starter at free safety. Senior J.J. Marcus and junior T.J. Gurley will compete for the starting strong safety job.
In effect, the position battle this offseason is between candidates at strong safety and cornerback. Williams will play the position Brown and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward deem weakest.
"It depends on how everybody does, depends on how the backup safeties do and the corners that come in do," Williams said. "It's just up to them. Right now, I'm liking corner a lot. So I would probably want to play corner."
With a depleted depth chart, at least one position change was expected in the secondary. Williams is an intriguing candidate, given his experience at safety and relative inexperience at corner.
Williams hasn't played cornerback since high school. He shed weight this offseason, trying to become more agile covering receivers on the outside. Williams said the transition hasn't been difficult.
"I think it's still the same," Williams said. "We still do the same footwork at safety that we do at corner. We're just farther outside, and we're playing a lot of man-to-man more."
With 45 tackles last fall, Williams is the top returning tackler in the Gamecocks' secondary. It would be easy for Williams to settle in at safety and get ready for his senior season, but Brown wants to make sure his secondary has the best combination of players.
Brown has been pleased with what he's seen from Williams at cornerback. There hasn't been much rust this spring. In some ways, the move to cornerback is easier.
If called upon this fall, Brown expects Williams to be ready to play cornerback at a high level.
"I don't it's a transition at all, to be honest with you," Brown said. "Especially from a man-coverage standpoint, it's harder to play man coverage in the slot (a safety's job) than it is outside (at cornerback). So I don't think it's much of a transition."
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