California assistant coach Greg Burns was busy on Tuesday, offering three members of the Gardena (Calif.) Serra football team, including quarterback Khalil Tate, defensive lineman Oluwole Betiku and, most germane to Burns, defensive back C.J. Pollard.
“He explained how good the program is, and said he wanted to officially extend me a full scholarship offer,” said Pollard, who had 58 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss last season, to go along with three pass deflections. “He was telling me what a great opportunity it was, and that they’re a great program, on the rise.”
Pollard already knows about the past of the Cal football program, even as Burns is trying to get him to be a part of the program’s future.
“There have been some great corners come out of there, like one of my favorites: Nnamdi Asomugha. I look up to him,” said Pollard. “And, DeSean Jackson, those dudes are two successful guys actually from the South Bay area, where I live.”
Burns had been recruiting Pollard since last spring, and, Pollard said, “He always liked me. It was just today where he finally made the final evaluation.”
What did Burns see on Pollard’s tape?
“My versatility,” Pollard said. “I can play corner and I can play safety, and I can play nickel, like a hybrid linebacker spot. I can really do it all in the secondary. I can be used anywhere, basically.”
At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Pollard fits the same mold as the six defensive backs the Bears brought in during this recruiting cycle – big and strong. Four of the defensive backs check in at 6-foot-2 or taller, one (DePriest Turner) is 6-foot-1 and one (Billy McCrary) is 5-foot-11. Cal currently has one defensive back taller than 5-foot-11.
There was some buzz early on that USC may be the early leader for Pollard, who’s parents – including his father, who played cornerback for the Trojans – both went to USC. Now that Pollard has offers from Arizona State, Boston College, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon State, San Jose State, USC, Utah and Wisconsin, though, he’s keeping his options open.
“I’m looking at everybody,” Pollard said. “I’m taking everything slowly. I want to take all my official visits, I want to take some unofficial visits soon, if I can. I would like to go to Cal on an unofficial. I’m trying to make it out to the local ones – Utah, Cal, Arizona State, things that are close – for unofficial visits. I’d like to check those out, sit back and evaluate all my options.”
Pollard’s father – Marvin – who played for the Torjans from 1988-91, serves as his son’s defensive backs coach with the Cavaliers, and has helped develop his son into a four-star prospect.
“To compare us two, I would say he was a little faster,” Pollard said. “I’m a little bit bigger. He’s an athlete too, so we have all the same qualities, to be honest with you, it’s just that I’m a little bit bigger than he was at this age.
“He’s helped me a tremendous amount, because he’s the DB coach at Serra, and on the weekends and during the offseason, we get that one-on-one time, teaching me techniques and little tricks, actually, to defend certain routes and defeat offenses by myself.”
When Pollard’s father meets with and speaks with college defensive back coaches, he knows of what he speaks, and speaks the same language.
“He’s talked to coach Burns, last week, and he was telling him the same things he told me,” Pollard said. “[Marvin] told me that I was going to get an offer when they got back to the office. He thinks [Burns] is a good guy, he’s credible, he knows his stuff. He knows Cal is a very prestigious university, not only with football, but in the long run. That’s one of the best schools, and that’s a great program.”
Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that Burns was coaching defensive backs at USC.
“That’s big,” Pollard said. “He’s very credible. He knows all his stuff.”
The elder Pollard has been as hands-off as he can be with his recruitment, not pushing his son towards the Coliseum.
“He wants me to go wherever I want to,” Pollard said. “He doesn’t have any preference. Everybody’s situation is different. He wants me to be at a place where I’m going to be happy, because I’m going to have to be there, so he wants me to make a decision I’m going to be happy with, at the end of the day.”