Midway through his freshman season, he moved to linebacker. When injuries disrupted the depth chart at safety last spring, he moved back to safety. By the time the season started, however, he was a linebacker once again. And no, as spring begins for Georgia in 2010, Williams is once again on the move – and he couldn’t be happier.
“I was excited when I heard I was back at safety,” Williams said. “I liked linebacker, but I wasn’t big enough. I knew that, but I was going to play it regardless. So when Coach (Mark Richt) told me I was going back to safety, and this was my permanent spot, I’m like, ‘That’s good.’ It wasn’t hard switching back.”
Williams said he needs to drop a few pounds before the season starts – he’s at about 220 now – but beyond that, safety feels like home.
Even better than the new position, however, is the new style, Williams said. In Grantham’s new defense, the safeties are given a lot more room to run and make plays, and that’s exactly what Williams wants to do.
“This is just a fun defense to play in,” he said. “You’re running around making plays. You’re not just assigned to one gap. You’re making plays. You never know who’s blitzing, the safeties are always running and moving around. It’s fun.”
Of course, before Williams can make too many plays, he needs to land a starting job. Both of last year’s starters are gone, which leaves the competition this spring tight between Bacarri Rambo – last year’s top backup – junior college transfer Jakar Hamilton, veteran Quintin Banks and Williams.
During Georgia’s first practice, Williams said he and Hamilton split most of the first-team reps, but said the other safety position really isn’t up for grabs.
“I see it as one open position because Rambo’s got his locked,” Williams said. “He’s ready to go.”
Any way you want it
Branden Smith had plenty of highlight moments in his freshman campaign, but he didn’t exactly secure his place in the pecking order of the defensive backfield. In fact, much of Smith’s impact in 2009 was felt on the offensive side of the football.
That should change a bit this season as Smith battles to land the starting job at cornerback opposite Brandon Boykin, but his playing time on offense last year didn’t necessarily maximize his study time for his current job.
“I wish I could have played defense a little more last year, but on the other hand, I’m just here to help the team win, that’s all,” Smith said.
Smith finished last season with just 14 tackles and two pass break-ups, playing in a back-up role on defense, generally in nickel coverages.
On offense, Smith met with a bit more success – rushing for 208 yards and two touchdowns on the season. He handled kick returns, too, but has occasional problems hanging onto the football.
This spring, Smith said he plans to focus on developing his skills at corner and said he hasn’t spoken with new defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos about playing offense or special teams, too. Still, the idea of being an all-purpose contributor remains of keen interest for Smith.
“I like playing both ways, but my main focus is just winning,” Smith said. “If I had to play offense the rest of the season to help the team win, that’s what I’d have to do.”