Smith is moving senior Greg Cooper and junior SirDarean Adams from their starting positions at free safety and bandit to cover and free safety respectively. Smith said the moves are experiments and not necessarily etched in stone.
The Spartans initial depth chart shows Cole Corey, a 5-foot-10, junior from Tecumseh as the starting bandit, sophomore Michael Bell, a highly regarded recruit from Ohio as the starting strong safety, sophomore Otis Wiley of Southfield at free safety with unior Ross Weaver and senior Demond Williams at the corners.
The moves would mean MSU would field three first time starters in the secondary, but Smith indicated he expects both Adams and Cooper to resurface in their new positions.
"[Adams is] going to be somewhere in the back row (secondary) somewhere. I'm not sure it's going to be at a bandit. He could go back there, [but] we're going to take a look at him back in the safety spot," Smith indicated.
Those guys in the back row should be interchangeable we hope, the two guys at least. And then we'll wait and see what he gets done back there. If he can handle it back there, he may be back there, if not then he may move up. So we're going to take a look at just trying to get waht we think is the best eleven (players) on the field. "
Smith said he believe Adams can make the transition.
"For SirDarean Adams, it's a matter of backing him up and away from the line of scrimmage. At the bandit position, he played up closer to the line of scrimmage. At safety, is he going to feel comfortable working in space? Last year (as a bandit), he really got comfortable getting up toward the line and getting after people. As a safety, SirDarean is going to have to realize that he's a cover guy first, not a hit guy first."
Cooper said he was looking at the move as a challenge.
"It's a challenging step, moving from free safety to corner, but I have the mindset that I can play any position in the secondary. I simply want to do what's best for the team and help us win games."
He said he has some experience at the position.
"I played cornerback a little bit in high school. One obvious adjustment is playing closer to the receiver, near the line of scrimmage. The communication is also different at corner. While playing free safety, I got to make the calls for the corners. Now, the safeties are telling me what to do.
"I'm going to work hard at corner this spring, and I will strive to be the best player I can be at whatever position the coaches put me at."
The moves are somewhat head scratching as Adams was expected to be the headliner at one of the team's strongest defensive units, linebacker. With senior David Herron, Jr. returning alongside junior Kaleb Thornhill and the oft-injured Seth Mitchell showing rapid improvement, MSU appeared to have talent and depth but the move to the virtual unknown Corey changes things.
Questions were raised about Corey's size (5-foot-10, 194 pounds)and his ability to stand up to the physical nature of the bandit position, which is a hybrid outside linebacker and safety positions and whether redshirt freshman Tom Dance might be more suited to the task.
"We've played smaller guys at that position before. Cole Corey is physical enough at 200-plus pounds. Hopefully, Tom Dance (6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Erie, PA.) will show something this spring. It's time for Tom to step up and become a major contributor because he does have a nice, physical presence."
While the early moves in the secondary might appear stunning on the surface, Smith seemed to hedge his bets constantly on whether the moves were permanent, or simply to put a buzz in Spring practice.
"Again, don't read too much into it," warned Smith. "We're simply trying to get the best 11 players on the field. That's why you see Clifton Ryan listed inside at defensive tackle, rather than defensive end."