Semper Fi: In-Depth With Muhammad
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Khalfani Muhammad is easy to lose. He's listed at 5-foot-9, but readily admits he's closer to a short 5-foot-8. At 174 pounds, he's 70 pounds lighter than the defensive ends he's trying to evade -- and sometimes block.
Yet, for Pierre Ingram -- the California football team's new, young running backs coach -- Muhammad took nearly four hours to wrestle back into the boat after he replaced 16-year veteran Ron Gould.
"When he first moved in, I got to talk with him that following week, and I think he's a cool guy," Muhammad said after practice for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Tuesday. "We've spent a lot of time together, and I'm looking forward to it.
"My dad was just picking his brain, seeing where he was at," Muhammad said of Ingram's in-home visit. "You've still got to compare and really scan what you're getting yourself into, but he was talking it up, he showed us what it was all about, and I think he's coming down again, so we'll see some more."
The lengthy in-home visit reassured Muhammad that his commitment to the Bears was still the right decision.
"You've still got to keep your options open, because you don't know what could happen a month from now or anything, but we're chatting it up, back and forth, and I've talked to Sonny Dykes a few times and [Tony] Franklin, the offensive coordinator, and we've got a good relationship right now," Muhammad said. "I'm still solid."
Ingram -- who finished his college career as a wide receiver in 2006 -- has spent just three seasons coaching Division I running backs, but in those three seasons, he's produced two 1,000-yard rushers.
"He has a lot to learn, he said, because he's young in the game, but he's willing to take that challenge to replace Coach G," Muhammad said. "He's got big shoes to fill, but he's up for it. I'm really excited about that, because he's hungry and he wants to make sure we improve and wants the best for us."
Muhammad continued his strong, physical play at the Semper Fi practices on Tuesday, showing off his blocking prowess against defensive ends and linebackers alike. He's also able to get skinny in a hurry, popping through running lanes barely a moment wide.
"I grew up with all brothers, so you just have to be physical," said Muhammad, who is the second oldest of four brothers, who, he says, fought all the time. "It doesn't matter how big you are; you just have to be physical and have heart and never give up. When I go up against those 6-foot-6, 6-foot-9 -- there's some 6-9 kids I've seen out here -- you've just got to hammer and be physical and go at it. You don't know how big their heart is; theirs could be weaker than yours, so you've just got to fight to the end."
He's also shown his trademark track speed, getting to the edge and turning the corner against some of the best defenders in the nation.
This past offseason, Muhammad ran "only" a 10.7-second 100m time at the Junior Olympics in Spain, and he plans on continuing to run track this spring, as he prepares to join several other of his current West teammates -- quarterback Jared Goff, kicker Matt Anderson, defensive end Garrett Hughes, offensive tackle Erik Bunte, linebacker Victor Egu and wide receiver A.J. Richardson -- in Berkeley. So far this week, Goff has not yet missed Muhammad on a pass, and Muhammad has yet to drop a single toss or handoff.
"We have a good relationship," Muhammad said of his future quarterback. "He hit me up a few times, actually, he hit me up the day after I committed, so we've been chatting it up a little bit on text messages, and here, we're spending a whole week together, so we get to feel that bond, as well as with the other Cal commits."
An impish grin then spreads across Muhammad's face.
"We're trying to get some more," he winks. "There are a bunch of kids that have Cal in their top three, and we're trying to pull them to it."
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