SU cornerback may step in at free safety
When Southern cornerback Virgil Williams got to practice on Monday, coaches told him that his position title was about to change.
Instead of his usual place at corner or nickelback, Williams was sent to free safety, and as far as he knows, that’s where he’ll be when the Jaguars host Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday.
“I rolled with it,” Williams said.
Williams rolled with it in last weekend’s 34-7 win against Texas Southern as well. When free safety Johnathon Wilson left the game with an injury, Southern was without its top four players at the position.
Mychal Bell (ankle), D’Mekus Cook (shoulder) and Jamaal Martin (knee) were all either out or limited. Although Wilson later returned, Williams filled in and may have to continue the role going forward.
“It depends on if we get some other guys back,” interim coach Dawson Odums said. “We’re starting to get a little healthier at the right time, but if we need him back there, we know Virgil is the kind of guy who can play anywhere in the secondary.”
Indeed, Williams’ skill as the team’s top cover man and perhaps best overall athlete makes him a versatile tool, but it’s the players around him that freed him up to move.
Johnathan Mack has been solid in his first year as a starting corner, and rookies Marquon Webster and D’Andre Woodland have also had success, meaning that the team has enough reliable cornerbacks to run a nickel package with Williams at safety.
Williams said he’d rather be at corner — or, better yet, nickel — because there’s more action, but he’s able to adjust to his new role as well.
“When I go back to safety, I’m more of a quarterback for the defense, getting the defense lined up,” he said. “I definitely want to be closer to the action, but whatever coach Odums believes is best for the team, I’m with it.
“I’m buying into whatever the coaches want us to do.”
Bell, the starting free safety, has missed the past two games since injuring his ankle against Florida A&M. He returned to practice Tuesday but was not full speed. Cook, Bell’s top backup, did not practice.
Odums honors BCAM
When Odums arrived for his weekly news conference Tuesday, he did so wearing a pink construction helmet in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
He spent the first two minutes of his address talking about Lulla Johnson, a close family friend who helped raise him and has undergone a 23-year battle with breast cancer.
“Sometimes we look at athletes and say that they are our heroes, but I’m here to tell you that Lulla Johnson is a hero to me,” Odums said. “Regardless of what goes on in our life, people that have taught you to fight to the end are great and special to my heart. I learned that from Lulla Johnson.”
Odums ended his remarks by paraphrasing former N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano’s speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards, given less than two months before Valvano lost his own battle with cancer.
“To all those magnificent women out there that are fighting and struggling with breast cancer, I say to you in the famous words of the great N.C. State head coach Jimmy Valvano, ‘Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t you ever give up.’”
Many Southern players have taken up the cause as well by wearing pink. The largest showing came in their first game of the month at Alcorn State, when the list included Woodland, Corry Roy, Jaleel Richardson, Omar Cook, Justin Williams, Terence Clayton, Eric Janeau and Kadeem Lewis.