"Co-starters" is a relatively unused designation in football. In baseball, a platoon is a far more common occurrence, where batting statistics or defensive prowess can lead to a start in a certain situation. But in football, the game where virtually every player is already a specialist, the idea of co-starting is unique.
And while fifth-year senior Vince Williams and junior Telvin Smith are as physically different as middle linebackers get, they say "co-starters" are exactly what they are. Not specialists. Not package subs. Co-starters.
"This is just a dynamic duo," Smith told reporters this week. "Everybody's (talking) like we're battling. We don't even see it as that anymore. We see it as we're just helping each other out. When I see he's winded, then I run out there. When he sees I'm kind of down, then he'll help me."
Williams uniformly agrees.
"It just works, man," he said. "It's just a respect thing. We're both good, we're talented so we just roll in and out. It's not really a coaching thing anymore, we kind of just kind of sub ourselves when we see (the other is) winded, or if a guy is on a roll he stays in.
"It takes a tremendous amount of maturity to be able to do it and I think we handle it just fine."
As far as physical build goes, Williams is by far the traditionally-built middle linebacker. He stands at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, which makes him a stereotypical run-stuffing kind of player. Smith, on the other hand, flashes elite speed for the position and stands at a lean 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. That size lends itself to the passing game and coverage more than plugging an interior gap.
Williams said the differences mostly end there, and that anyone "who knows football" will quickly see that they are very similar players. Where they do have different styles, however, is in attitude.
"He's just always alive," Williams said. "He's always going to be screaming and yelling and jumping around. I'm always like, 'focus baby.'"
"I mean he's just a bigger me and I'm a smaller him," Smith added.
Williams did concede that while their relationship is more than just business - the two have a friendly/serious video game relationship off the field - both also realize that their status as co-starters always has the potential to change.
"We're both grown men," Williams said. "We both feel like we should be starters and we're going to play as hard as we can
We're going to force each other to be as best as we can be every single play because we know at any given moment, any one of us can be named the complete starter so it's just something we keep in mind."
But for now, "co-starter" suits both just fine.
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