BATON ROUGE, La. — All it takes is one look at his hips to know where Ed Paris belongs.
After 2½ years of playing Paris at cornerback, LSU football coaches decided one day last fall — about the time of the Alabama game — to try him at safety. One drill in, Paris recognized the coaches found a new place for him to play.
“It was like, ‘Hey, do some drills with the safeties real quick. Let’s see how your hips look,’ ” Paris said. “So we do a middle-of-the-field drill and my hips look good, look smooth. They’re like, ‘Oh this guy’s good. He’s a natural.’ ”
Six months and one round of roster turnover later, and Paris’ transition to safety has gone from an experiment to a collective stroke of coaching intelligence. One week into spring practice, Paris is lining up opposite fellow senior John Battle as LSU’s starting safeties, working as the heir apparent to departed All-American Jamal Adams.
Adams’ greatness was and is obvious. He was a safety from Day 1 and a starting safety soon after that. But it took a little longer for Paris to earn that “natural” tag. A tag, by the way, that isn’t self-described.
“That’s a natural spot for him,” LSU football coach Ed Orgeron said of playing Paris at safety. “I didn’t think corner was a natural spot. I think he’ll do fine at safety.”
For the Tigers secondary to pick up where it left off in 2016, Paris must be better than fine. And if you ask him, that’s definitely the plan.
Football is football
Paris isn’t an absolute stranger to playing safety. As a sophomore in high school in Arlington, Texas, Paris took a brief detour from his development as a cornerback to fill in for an injured teammate at safety. The building blocks of playing safety are in place.
Compound that with the fact that LSU defensive coaches expect their DBs to know how to play every position, and you’ll understand why Paris wasn’t at all reticent to switch.
“As a corner, I need to know what the linebackers are doing and what the ends are doing,” Paris said. “Safety, you just know what everybody’s doing. It broadens my game. It makes me more of a football player. My football smartness is increasing.”
Paris means what he says when he talks about playing a broad game. When asked whether he was resistant to switching positions, Paris said he’d play defensive end or nose tackle today if his coaches asked him. To borrow his words, football is football. And defense is defense. Defenders have to tackle. And if playing safety just means a bit more tackling, Paris interprets that mean he gets to play a little more football.
That’s why Paris rolled with the decisions that were made for him. Because he’s going to make the best of whatever playing time he’s given.
“There’s nothing wrong with adversity. There’s nothing wrong with change,” Paris said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to make me better. It’s going to broaden my film seeing me play at every position. I think safety was probably the best move for me.”
Was it the best move for LSU? That answer isn’t clear yet. But if there’s one thing Paris learned in his first three years at LSU, it’s that football is a process.
And the only way to make the best of the process is to embrace it.
“It’s weird, you go from the youngest guy to the oldest like that,” Paris said. “That’s [what] a lot of college kids don’t realize. You can’t take this for granted. It goes by real fast. I remember my freshman year like it was yesterday. There’s a lot of adversity. You’ve got ups and downs. You’ve just got to finish with the up.”