Ahmad Christian fits the mold of a maturing freshman football player with his redshirt year behind him.
With the cornerback taking part in his first spring practice, Christian says he’s stronger and faster than he was in fall camp – as well as older and wiser.
“I feel real good now that I know the playbook, like a veteran,” he said. “I can play different techniques now. I feel better defensively. I feel like the first couple days I came out and played real well.”
The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Christian is working with the secondary and in punt returns. He impressed coaches right away with two interceptions during the first spring workout.
“Ahmad is a guy that has a lot speed, a lot of talent, a lot of football ahead of him to play,” said Grady Brown, USC’s new secondary coach.
Christian showcased his speed during testing recently, running a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, second to speedster and wide receiver Damiere Byrd.
In practice, he likes his results so far in man-to-man coverage, except against Ace Sanders, the team’s leading returning receiver.
“He’s got me a couple times,” said Christian, who is listed on the pre-spring depth chart behind senior Akeem Auguste and junior Jimmy Legree at the field cornerback spot.
This week Christian is recovering from a concussion that happened in Saturday’s practice. On an interception attempt, Christian’s head collided with Damiere Byrd’s leg. Neither caught the ball.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward expects Christian back at practice Friday.
Christian didn’t go through winter workouts with the rest of the team as he tried out as an infielder on USC’s baseball team. He was chosen by the Milwaukee Brewers in last year’s Major League Baseball draft. He and USC running back Shon Carson had aspirations to be part of Ray Tanner’s squad, but Carson is recovering from knee surgery.
Christian didn’t make Tanner’s final roster cut, and it wasn’t a big surprise.
“I kind of knew going into that I probably wasn’t going to make it because of the numbers,” he said. “Coach Tanner told me, ‘We want you to get the feel of everything this year. Play as hard as you can and try to improve.’ They were working on things so that I’ll be ready for next year.”
Christian starred on offense and defense at Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Fla., where he rushed for 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns his senior year and had 64 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was projected as a college cornerback or safety and chose USC over Tennessee, Auburn and Miami.
He’s leaning on Auguste and senior safety D.J. Swearinger for wisdom and knowledge, and both veterans are offering it, Christian said.
“It definitely encourages me knowing they want to see me do good even though we play the same position,” he said. “They want to see me do good and be ready to go and once they leave be ready to step up and make plays.”