The great Ryan Smith experiment is over.
OK, it wasn’t that great of an experiment. All the Buccaneers were trying to do was turn Smith from a cornerback into a safety. Either way, the experiment is over.
The Bucs began to bag the idea of turning Smith into a safety several weeks ago, and coach Dirk Koetter announced on Monday that going forward, Smith will be working full time at cornerback.
“Yeah, we’re going to move Ryan back to corner full-time,’’ Koetter said. “He played both in college and we originally thought that because of his size we’d try to play him as a safety.
“But he got injured earlier in the year and got a little bit behind in the install and then, over the course of the year, through his play on the scout team, we (developed) very high hopes for him at corner.
“He was going up against Mike Evans every day (in practice) and he did a really nice job there, and then he (also) transitioned into a real nice special teams player.
“He made a couple big plays (during the Bucs 17-16 victory over the Panthers on Sunday) as a gunner, so I think that draft pick there is going to turn out just fine for us.’’
A product of North Carolina Central, Smith was the Bucs fourth-round pick (108th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. In addition to playing safety and cornerback in college he also returned kicks.
He could still end up doing that for the Bucs, but for now he’ll slot in somewhere behind Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves at cornerback, where the Bucs are suddenly beginning to develop some depth.
In addition to finding two solid starting outside corners in Grimes and Hargreaves the Bucs believe they also have two solid slot corner options in Jude Adjei-Barimah and Javien Elliott.
Throw Smith and Josh Robinson into the mix as the backups behind Grimes and Hargreaves and the Bucs could let Alterraun Verner and his $6.5 million contract go and still not feel much of a pinch at the position.
“Yeah, we feel like we’ve got good depth at that position now,’’ Koetter said.