In April, defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose watched two of his former pupils pick up tickets to the pros. Colorado’s star cornerbacks, Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, were plucked in the first and fourth rounds.
He thinks he sees something better here at Cal.
“Those guys were talented, but there were only two of them,” Ambrose said. “These guys, they can become game-changers. All four.”
“These guys” being cornerbacks Stefan McClure, Joel Willis and Kameron Jackson, as well as four-star safety Avery Walls. Together, they form what Ambrose — who first saw Smith and Brown as redshirt freshmen when he worked as the Buffs’ defensive technical intern — believes is the most talented group of freshmen he’s ever seen.
His comments echoed those of head coach Jeff Tedford, who was said last week that this defensive class was as good as any he’d seen.
McClure, who was being recruited by Ambrose when he still worked at Colorado, said during the recruiting process that he was looking for a place he wouldn’t have to redshirt. With only the first few days of camp wrapped up, he’s expected to get his wish: he and Walls have been the most frequently mentioned youngsters in the defensive backfield.
It’s still too early, though, to say how much time they’ll get in the secondary. The athletic Steve Williams will join starting corner Marc Anthony, as well as senior safety Sean Cattouse. Josh Hill, who started 14 games over two seasons before sitting out spring camp due to academics, is versatile enough to see reps at any spot. But there’s no true pecking order behind the first-string, and the next few weeks could be enough for a new kid to move up.
“I think Avery Walls stood out today as a guy who’s an exceptional player,” Tedford said Tuesday. “I think he’ll be one of our best special teams players for sure.”
Ambrose added: “He just has that physical attitude. He wants to hit. Everything he does, he goes hard.”
—Cattouse returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out part of Monday with a tight hamstring.
—Bill Tyndall is getting reps at left tackle with both players ahead of him sidelined at the moment. Senior starter Mitchell Schwartz is still recovering from a minor hamstring injury, and backup Tyler Rigsbee suffered a shin contusion.
—Defensive tackle Aaron Tipoti exhibited concussion-like symptoms and will likely sit out Wednesday’s practice. True freshman linebacker Jason Gibson was on crutches with a sprained ankle. His status is unclear.
Odds and Ends
—Redshirt freshman Trajuan Briggs is still on the team, Tedford said Tuesday. The tailback is among the ten-odd players not in fall camp, a group that includes quarterback Ryan Wertenberger.
—Jackson, the team’s youngest player, was born on Oct. 31, 1993. Defensive end Ryan Davis, the team’s oldest player, was born on Dec. 27, 1986.
—Freshman Destiny Iwuoma wins the unofficial Best Name on the Roster award. The defensive back from Pasadena, Calif., is the younger brother of Chidi Iwuoma, who was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers when they won Super Bowl XL.