Bucs cross-training rookie Ryan Smith at cornerback
Bucs rookie safety Ryan Smith, who has not played a snap on defense this season, has been working for the last two weeks as a cornerback, back at the position he played in his last two years of college.
Smith, who has been the Bucs' primary kickoff returner, was moved from safety to cornerback to adjust depth while Jude Adjei-Barimah is serving his four-game suspension, but the team will decide in the offseason whether his future is at corner or safety.
"We're cross-training Ryan, because we think he's athletic enough to play both positions," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Thursday. "He spent the first part of the season playing safety, and now we're working him at the corner position, trying to get him up to speed. You've got to have contingency plans in place for the game."
Mike Smith said the fourth-round pick from North Carolina Central has shown good progress in practice, even though he's yet to play on the field, but that has more to do with coaches' confidence in its starting safeties and top cornerbacks.
"Ryan, I think, has progressed extremely well," the coach said. "We love his athleticism. We love his hitting ability. We think he's going to be a really good player for us. He just hasn't had an opportunity to play on defense as he has on special teams yet. When you watch his physicality on special teams, it translates that he's going to be a good player on defense."
With Russell Shepard playing more on offense due to injuries, the Bucs had Smith working as a gunner on kick coverage in Sunday's win at San Diego, a new role that he said he's comfortable with. As for moving back to corner, he said he's working to show he's comfortable playing at both positions -- Josh Robinson, a special-teams standout who had worked with the cornerbacks, has cross-trained with the safeties, giving flexibility to the overall depth in the secondary.
"I did both in college, and it felt good to know that coaches know I can do both," Smith said. "It's still a learning process, being comfortable again at the position. It's coming along fine, and I'm just listening and learning as I go."
Mike Smith stressed the Bucs can enter the offseason with the freedom to move forward with Ryan Smith at either position, and the choice can be made from there.
"He's not a tweener. We think he's a guy that can play both," Mike Smith said. "It gives us a lot of flexibility in that he can line up inside and outside. I think that will be a decision made more in the offseason. Right now, we're looking at it as what we have to do this week, where do we have to move someone if someone gets dinged."