When the Buccaneers selected Ryan Smith in the 2016 NFL Draft, he was projected as a player that could play both corner and safety. The Bucs required him to learn just one position as a rookie: safety.
Heading into his second NFL season, the Bucs hope he can play a bigger role on the team's defense. But it will be at cornerback, not safety. Smith has been working strictly as an outside corner during OTAs.
"He's not playing nickel, he's playing all outside," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said. "Ryan is playing all outside as our third corner right now and he's getting better. He's getting a lot of reps."
With Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves unable to practice on particular days, Smith has had the opportunity to work with the first-team defense. While it'll be a new position for him in the NFL, Smith was primarily a corner in college. During his senior season, all 10 of his starts were at the position.
"I was pretty happy," Smith said after learning he's be moving to corner. "It's my more natural position. I wasn't mad that I was at safety – it's just that corner is where I'm more comfortable at. Like I said, though, I'll play anything."
He'll be making the transition with an accomplished group of veterans, including four-time Pro Bowler Brent Grimes.
"Everybody's helping me," Smith said. "I have questions for all of the vets in the room. It's not one specific person, it's everybody, really."
Smith showed flashes during his rookie year, but his biggest contributions came on special teams. His top-tapping save on punt coverage was voted as one of the top plays in the league a year ago. Russell Shepard, the Bucs' special teams captain a year ago and gunner on the punt team, is no longer with the team following free agency. Regardless of Smith's impact on defense, he'll be a candidate to fill Shepard's role as a gunner – something he's excited to take on.
"I want to take on every role possible," Smith said. "Anything helps (to be) on the field. It was fun playing gunner. Shep was the other gunner, but we've got Josh Robinson coming back. We'll still be a threat."