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Cornerback Andraez Williams works this spring against Saivion Smith. 

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

LSU secondary coach Corey Raymond made a promise last fall to freshman cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams.

In the spring, he told Williams, you’ll have your opportunity.

“And that came,” a smiling Williams said earlier this week.

Now, here he is — the No. 3 cornerback on LSU’s depth chart, who’s expected to play a significant role this season. His playing time, though, is contingent on another position: the nickel, the inside cornerback in a five-defensive back package.

The nickel is an important spot in a secondary that lost three starters from last year, including primary nickel cornerback Dwayne Thomas. With the amount of spread offenses on the schedule, LSU plays in a five-defensive-back nickel formation the majority of the time.

Five days into preseason camp, the nickel position is one of the more hotly competitive open starting spots this August, joining right guard, safety and wide receiver options behind starter D.J. Chark.

Williams has a vested interest in who wins the job. If it’s Donte Jackson, as it was in the spring, Williams gets more playing time. As the third cornerback, he replaced Jackson out wide opposite Kevin Toliver.

“It’s an important position,” Williams said of nickel. “It’s a playmaking spot. You’ve got to have focus and discipline to play that position.”

So who’s winning the job, and who is practicing there? That's hard to say: Camp is closed to reporters and the public. Coach Ed Orgeron will open drills to the media Aug. 21, the first day of school.

For now, reporters must rely on comments from Orgeron and players. Most recently, safety John Battle weighed in on the fight.

The first name he mentioned was a true freshman: Kary Vincent, a speedy Texas product whom defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and Orgeron named over the summer as a solution for the Tigers’ nickel problem.

Coaches rotated players at nickel during spring. The rotation started with third-year sophomore Xavier Lewis early during drills before finishing with Jackson sliding inside to the spot.

How important is the job? It was a talking point during a staff meeting Sunday, the day players reported.

“One of the first things we talked about as a staff is coaching the nickel position and getting that right,” Orgeron said that day. “Xavier Lewis can play it. Kristian Fulton can play it. Donte Jackson can play it, if we want to move him from corner. (He) probably would be the best one there. Kary Vincent could do fantastic there.”

Abraham Wallace, a longtime walk-on, is working at the spot, too, Battle said.

Quietly, perhaps, Williams is rooting for Jackson. After all, everybody likes playing time.

He was hoping to see the field last season. Given LSU’s stacked secondary, that didn’t happen for the guy they call "Greedy," a nickname bestowed on him by his mother. The Tigers had Tre’Davious White, Jackson, Kevin Toliver and Saivion Smith, who beat out Williams to play in 10 games as a freshman.

Williams spent his redshirt year watching game film with other defensive backs and gaining 15 pounds to his current 185-pound frame.

“They put weight on me,” he smiled. “I’ve been eating good.”

Smith left the team this spring, transferring to a junior college and opening the door for Williams. Despite his age, he almost feels like the big brother now, tutoring rookies like Vincent and Jontre Kirklin, a former high school quarterback making the transition to cornerback.

“Got to get his technique down, but he’s new to corner so I expect him to have a couple of mistakes,” Williams said. “I’m bringing him up with me.

“I told him, ‘This DBU.’ Like, we’re going to grind and do good technique and make sure in the spring and summer we dogging that position. Got to get used to it and have confidence.”


LSU upcoming camp schedule

  • Saturday: 4 p.m. scrimmage (first of camp)
  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: 4 p.m. practice
  • Tuesday: 4 p.m. practice
  • Wednesday: 4 p.m. practice 
All scrimmages and practices are closed to the media and public.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.