Carter Move Long In The Making

Moving Tyrone Carter from safety to cornerback has been a year in the making, according to one Vikings coach. But it seems Carter wasn't so willing.

The shift of Tyrone Carter from safety to cornerback isn't a sudden movement out of desperation. Even though the Vikings moved the former Gophers two-time All-American last week, the seed of change was planted during the 2001 season.

Last season, Carter — at 5-foot-8, 190 pounds — kept insisting he was better suited as a safety rather than cornerback in the NFL. His defensive backs coach, Willie Shaw, felt otherwise. Any question as to who would win this power struggle?

"It's not like I moved him two weeks ago," said Shaw, who this season serves simultaneously as the team's defensive coordinator and secondary coach. "I moved him mentally a year ago.

"I said last year that he had better corner skills than safety skills. He didn't like it. I'd take him over to do corner drills against the receivers and he kept saying, ‘I'm a safety, I'm a safety, I'm a safety.'"

The move of Carter didn't come as too much of a surprise. Even though Carter was a hard hitter, his size limited him at safety. In essence, he was a safety in a cornerback's body. With the emergence of third-round draft pick Willie Offord, and improvements by Brian Russell, who spent last year on the Vikings practice squad, the move of Carter made sense.

The move also gives the Vikings more confidence in their young corps of cornerbacks. Corey Chavous is the team's starting left cornerback, and second-year player Eric Kelly is the starting right cornerback. Fourth-round pick Brian Williams will back up Chavous, and Carter will back up Kelly.

Chavous is considered the veteran of the group, but even he has just four years of NFL experience. Carter has two years of NFL experience, Kelly one year and Williams, a rookie, has no pro experience. Simple math indicates the Vikings' top four cornerbacks have a grand total of seven years of experience.

Even so, Shaw is excited about his secondary. "We have four good, solid young corners," Shaw said. "Chavous is the old man back there at corner, but he's only been in the league four years."

The move also give the Vikings confidence in nickel and dime situations — when the defense expects the pass. "We feel good about that situation," Shaw said, referring to the possibilities the Vikings have with their top four cornerbacks. "We feel we have three guys (Kelly, Williams and Carter) who give us a lot of versatility in nickel and dime situations."

Caution on Williams
Williams was a three-year starter for North Carolina State. Minnesota fans got a foreshadowing of Williams' talents in 1999, when he notched eight tackles and three passes defensed against the Gophers in the MicronPC.com Bowl.

So far in preseason, Williams has been impressive. He has five tackles (four solo), including one for a loss. He also has two passes defensed as well as a special teams tackle.

But Shaw cautioned against getting overly excited about a rookie in preseason. "He had a real strong game (against Buffalo), be it against the third and fourth teams," Shaw said. "Now we're going to get him some situations where he's with the first group.



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