USC Football: Dominic Davis looks to make speedy transition to cornerback

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Dominic Davis is looking for a new beginning at cornerback after spending two years in a crowded backfield, adding speed to USC’s secondary.

When USC Football took the field for practice on Thursday, something was different. Junior Dominic Davis traded in his cardinal No. 16 jersey for a new look: the white jersey of a defender.

The former running back is now a cornerback, practicing with the defense in a bid to see the field after two years as a back up in the backfield.

The move was both a long-time coming and a sudden change.

“I prayed a lot,” Davis said. “It’s been on my mind for awhile, probably for a year now.”

Stuck at the bottom of a crowded running back corps, Davis went to position coach Deland McCullough and pitched the idea of moving to defense. McCullough was on board and spoke to the staff while Davis reached out to defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford.

“It happened almost overnight. Next day I was with the defense.”

“It happened almost overnight. Next day I was with the defense,” he said.

The Trojans needed the body on defense having recently lost Jonathan Lockett to an extended absence due to hip surgery. Freshman cornerback Greg Johnson suffered a shoulder injury days earlier and fellow freshman Je’Quari Godfrey is being eased back after a high school knee injury.

Head coach Clay Helton said the move just made sense from a player and team perspective.

“He’s a great athlete,” Helton said. “He’s played both positions in high school, has been a wide receiver, corner and kick returner and it just felt like a natural move at this point in camp to see where he’s at with it.”

For Helton, the move is also an insurance policy.

“I think one of the good things our coaching staff has done in years prior has been being able to think outside the box, worst case scenario and train guys at different positions,” Helton said. “Dom has always been one of those guys who’s been a football smart kid and one of those guys who can go back and forth if needed if we get in a bad situation.”

Of course, Davis hopes for the change to stay permanent, seeing a greater opportunity for playing time on the defensive side of the ball.

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He has a definite advantage, despite making the move as a junior. He has speed.

“Can’t teach speed,” Davis said. “You can teach me the plays and all that but not instincts and explosiveness, speed.”

It’s been awhile, but Davis also has experience at the position. In fact, his first taste of interest from colleges on the recruiting trail was at cornerback. It wasn’t until his senior year that his value as an all-purpose back came to the forefront.

Now he’s working to tap back into those defensive instincts.

“Corner is pretty much being an athlete. I just have to get comfortable with the play calls and just go perform,” Davis said.

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Davis isn’t the first offensive player to transition to defensive back for USC. Ajene Harris made the move last year and has carved out a role for himself on the defense. Now he’s the model for how to do things right and he expects Davis to be the latest success story.

“I feel like he’s going to be alright,” Harris said. “He’s a fast guy. He’s a fast learner. He’s mature as a person. He wants to play. It’s the little things that he has to pay attention to that I had to pay attention to when I first moved over to DB.”

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With Harris guiding him, Davis took his first steps on his new path this week. He can only hope things work out as well for him.

“[Ajene] loves it. He doesn’t second guess his decision at all and I don’t think I will,” Davis said