First-year California running backs coach Pierre Ingram came to Berkeley to do two things: Chew bubble gum and coach up some NFL ball carriers. He's all out of bubble gum. Ingram is all about business, and Mountlake Terrace (Wash.) tailback Devante Downs digs that.
"He's not trying to be your friend. He's a coach, and that's what I'm looking for," Downs said on Monday night, less than two weeks before he comes down for his first unofficial visit to Berkeley and the Oakland NFTC regional camp. "He knows what he's talking about, and he seems like he has a well-thought-out plan."
Downs – the No. 1-ranked fullback in the 2014 class – is one of Ingram's favorites to come in and bash some heads as a bigger back in the new Bear Raid offense. Offered in mid-February by the Bears, Downs has since added offers from Arizona, Vanderbilt, Boise State, Oregon State and Stanford, to go along with offers from Arizona State, Colorado State, Utah, Washington and Washington State. Downs has a temperament typical of backs his size (6-foot-3, 215), in that he's simply a grinder. More offers aren't what he's shooting for.
"Coming from a smaller school, it was surprising at first; I didn't know how to handle it," Downs said. "That's why I've been going to my trainers just to get better and improve myself ... Honestly, I don't really care about offers. They're going to come if I just do what I'm supposed to do. I know that. My goal is just to help my team win. We haven't won a playoff game ever, so that's my goal."
Downs benched 280 when he last maxed out a year ago, but said that these days, he can probably put up north of 300. He squats 415 pounds, and is only going to get stronger before spring ball starts next month.
"We were doing track, but now that that's over, I'm going to my trainer three times a week, working on my explosiveness and my speed and also working my hips and my footwork," said Downs, who boasts a 4.57-second 40 time.
He can do more, he said, than just get the tough, three- and four-yard carries.
"They like me at running back. Coach Dykes was telling me that they had a player at Louisiana Tech that I reminded him of. He had like, 20 touchdowns as a freshman, and he said I reminded him of him the most," Downs said.
Several schools have come calling over the course of spring to see Downs in person, including Stanford, UCLA and BYU, with USC scheduled to drop in. He's already made trips out to check out the Huskies, the Beavers and the Ducks.
"They both went really well," Downs said of his trips to the Oregon schools. "At Oregon State, they're super nice. I liked the coaches and I liked the players. Oregon, they're nice, too, but Oregon has the sickest facilities I've been to yet. They're crazy."
While the Ducks are standing out, Downs said that he's going to be patient with his recruitment, even if Oregon extends an offer.
"I'm interested in them, but I wouldn't commit right on the spot," Downs said. "I'm interested in a lot of places. There's not one school that I'm going to commit to right now. I'm just weighing my options."
These days, he's talking most frequently with the Bears, Cardinal, the Beavers, the Huskies, the Sun Devils and the Commodores, and in just under two weeks, he'll come out to California to check out Cal and Stanford during his trip for the NFTC. What does he want to see from the Bears?
"Just to sit down with them and see their actual plan for me and seeing how they plan to use me, see the facilities and see if it's a place I could feel comfortable with," Downs said. "They have a really good academic system, so that's something that I'm also interested in."
Downs has a 3.6 GPA and has already scored a 1650 on the SAT, but, he said, he's taking it again soon, shooting for a score of 2000 or greater.
Getting Downs to Business
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