Last week we had a chance to speak with Missouri beat writer Dave Matter about 49ers first round draft pick Aldon Smith. As we move through this interminable offseason, the plan is to speak with a variety of people about the 49ers different draft choices. This will include beat writers, bloggers, and even college position coaches. Late last week I had a chance to speak with Chris Culliver's position coach at South Carolina, Lorenzo Ward.
Coach Ward has been the Gamecocks defensive coordinator since 2009 and this past year also focused in on cornerbacks. He actually spent some time in the Bay Area back in 2006 when he worked on Art Shell's coaching staff. I didn't ask a lot of questions of Coach Ward but he did provide some very useful information. The position coach interviews in the coming days will be a bit more thorough.
Niners Nation: How come Chris made the switch from safety to corner his senior?
Coach Lorenzo Ward: Because his position coach thought it was a better position for him. I watched Chris for the first year I was there and watched him in one-on-ones and watched him play press man-to-man and I thought he did a great job of putting his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage. I told him one day, when I first brought it up to him, he wanted nothing to do with it. I told him that if he could show at the next level that he could be an asset in more than one aspect, if you can play safety and you can play corner, then your stock rises. He kind of bought in and once he started playing it he enjoyed it.
NN: So he does a good job with press coverage?
LW: Oh yea, Chris is a physical young man. He can put his hands on receivers.
NN: It looks like he ran a pretty good 40 at the combine. How does that translate on the field for him?
LW: Chris is a fast guy. That's one of the reasons that I thought if he made a mistake on the line of scrimmage he had the speed to recover and could make up for that mistake. Speed's something that you can't coach. Chris was always kind of a fast guy. He was a track guy in high school. He went to the combine and he showed that he could run.
NN: Did he do a lot of work on special teams while he was at South Carolina?
LW: He played some, but he's more of a return guy. He played kick return., he's primarily a kickoff return guy.
NN: What's the one area he needs to improve on most at the next level?
LW: I think just learning the corner position. He spent seven weeks at the position before he got hurt and his learning curve is ahead of him as far as learning how to play the position. If he can get the technique and fundamentals down I think his future is bright in the NFL.
NN: How is he off the field?
LW: Chris is a great kid and I told every coach that ever called me about Chris that Chris is gonna learn to be good (not 100% sure on the last three words there). He'd call me every time he wants to go in early and watch video with me because he likes to study his opponent and he wants to make sure he's looking for the right things. I think he's grown a lot in that aspect of understanding the game and understanding what the people, the offense were trying to do to attack him. He definitely studies the game, he wants to be good and he will put in the extra work to get it done.
NN: Thanks. I appreciate the time.