Worstell Makes the Switch

BERKELEY -- Patrick Worstell was one of the surprises of camp at wide receiver, but he's traveling to Chicago as a safety this week against Northwestern.

BERKELEY -- About five days ago, California moved one of the top surprises in camp at the wide receiver position -- Patrick Worstell -- from the offensive side of the field, down to where the style lives – on the south end, with the defense.

With positively Laurentian depth at receiver -- Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler, Chris Harper, Trevor Davis, Maurice Harris, Stephen Anderson, Darius Powe, Ray Hudson, Bryce McGovern, Drake Whitehurst and Matthew Rockett -- Worstell’s hands and precision footwork would be wasted.

“I didn’t think about it that way. I thought about it as, they’re moving me as a positive thing, to try and get me out there, and hopefully keep helping out the team, like on special teams and on offense,” Worstell says. “Wherever they want to move me, I’m cool with it. I just got 110 percent and do what they tell me to do.”

But, with safety Avery Sebastian not quite up to snuff health-wise yet, and the likelihood that the Bears will have to play in nickel more against Northwestern on Saturday, there was some place Worstell could help: Safety.

“He did a lot of really good things, in regards to special teams,” said defensive backs coach Greg Burns. “He was doing some good, physical blocking, showed good athleticism, and we just wanted to make sure, just in case, if we needed another body, who could we use? He came over, and he’s been doing a pretty good job.”

The former Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley lacrosse midfielder and all-East Bay selection at wide receiver as a senior had experience playing in the defensive backfield.

“I played safety for two years,” said Worstell, who shadowed the first- and second-team free safeties for his first several days on defense, before taking a few one and two reps on Tuesday. “I loved it. I loved safety when I played it, so getting back in it feels good. It’s a nice little change of pace, and I’m enjoying it.”

By Burns’ estimation, Worstell has not only been enjoying the switch, but is really putting in the work.

“He shows a willingness to learn the position, a high energy level right now, eager to learn, but from an athletic standpoint, he seems to have the movements that we’re looking for,” Burns said.

Worstell will be a key player on special teams, and will travel this weekend to Northwestern, but given the uncertainty surrounding the loads that can be placed on Sebastian and corner Darius White, having an extra body for the defensive backfield will be key.

“He’s really picked up the defense pretty quickly,” said starting safety Stefan McClure, who’s had Worstell as a shadow for the past week. “I’ve been really impressed. Even in the meetings, just from talking to him, trying to coach him up on the base defense, he’s really picked it up quickly, and learning it on the run. He kind of got thrown in the fire, so just for any new DB, the hardest part is your eyes. If your eyes are in the wrong spot, it’s going to tell you where to go and you’re going to get a false read, or the wrong read and go the wrong direction. His footwork’s looked pretty nice. The past couple days in one-on-ones, I think he’s only given up one catch in one-on-ones, so he’s been out there doing really good. In team, he’s looking better and better and better every single day, and grasping the defense, and how to use the calls to make the defense work in our hands.”

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