Checking In With Joel Willis

Matt Soderstrom

In which we hear a bit more on his position change, and Richard Sherman[!?]

Joel Willis hasn't had the easiest time finding a position at Cal - he began under Coach Tedford at corner, was moved to wide receiver this spring under Coach Dykes, but as of last week, was moved back to corner again.

It's left him playing catch up, and since making the switch, Willis regularly spends extra time after practice with defensive backs coach Randy Stewart. Last Thursday, he was part of a group that included Darius Allensworth, Kenny Lawler [yes, Kenny Lawler], and Cameron Walker, working on backpedals, shuffling, and breaks.

"[Coach Stewart] was just trying to get my footwork up, so I can start competing with the DBs that are in front of me," Willis said.

"It was Coach Dykes' idea, because we needed depth on the defensive side of the ball. It's like one-deep right now, because a couple of guys got hurt - so we thought it would be best for me to go to the defense."

"I mean, it's always difficult to switch back and forth and to perfect one thing, but I feel like it was the best thing for the team at the time, so I'm going to dedicate myself to being the best DB I can."

Though he's transitioning back into the cornerback position for the second time, Willis said that his goal is to "just help the team out in any way possible. That's all I can say right now."

"I've played defense before, so it's coming back faster than one would expect."

After being reminded that he already had an interception in his second day on defense, Willis laughed when recalling the play saying, "yeah, I did. I came back...had my little receiver skills still intact, so I thought, 'oh, okay, I'm gonna go get the ball."

And that he did - during that play, Willis outleapt the receiver for a pass from scout team quarterback Austin Hinder. It was, in a way, reminiscent of another recently converted receiver - former Cardinal Richard Sherman.

"Exactly," Willis said of the comparison - and like Sherman, Willis feels like a switch isn't necessarily a bad thing. "I think I'll actually have a better chance [to play] on the defensive side of the ball."

With the team now gearing up to play another N team - albeit Northwestern and not Nevada - Willis said that the Bears enter this season "way more conditioned. Extremely prepared."

"People were more conditioned going into it, so I think it'll be a different outcome for the season. Now that camp's over, everybody is rejoicing, though."

Willis has full confidence in the man under center, too, saying that "they played who they thought was the best at the time."

"I feel like all of the quarterbacks are great quarterbacks. They just saw something in Goff that they chose to go with. I don't think it matters to any of the players [that a freshman is starting]."

"We all love our quarterbacks."

BONUS QUESTION:

Besides yourself, name someone who you think will have a breakout season.

"I think Chris Harper will. He's a great player. And Stefan McClure. Look out for him."

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