Safety Michael Lowe met new Cal defensive backs coach Greg Burns for the first time back in January after spending a month at home in Maryland during the holiday break.
“I made a bad first impression,” Lowe said. “He said he didn’t think I was taking it seriously.”
That’s because Lowe returned to school 20 pounds over his playing weight. “Mom cooks very well,” he explained.
Burns, hired by new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, said Lowe had been described to him as a player with “potential.” He admits he wasn’t sure what to think about him.
“He was a little out of shape initially,” Burns said. “We told him the things he needed to do. By the end of the summer he had accomplished everything that we asked.”
That includes absorbing the new defensive playbook, demonstrating the leadership the coaches sought from the senior, and shedding 20 pounds.
At 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, Lowe has been good enough that no one has wrestled away his position during a competitive fall camp. So Lowe will be in the starting lineup Aug. 30 at Northwestern?
“That would be safe to say,” Burns said this week. “Haven’t made that official decision yet, but right now Lowe has clearly said it loud and clear that he’s ready for it.”
The coaching staff added motivational fuel last spring by switching Stefan McClure from cornerback to safety. From the outside, it appeared coaches expected McClure (recovered from a knee injury) and Avery Sebastian (coming off an Achilles tear) would be the starters.
Lowe, a starter in 10 games last season, admits he felt like an afterthought.
“It was a shock,” he said of McClure’s move to safety. “They tried to move people around for what was best for the team. It was very motivating, just putting an extra guy back there who’s obviously capable of handling the job.”
Sebastian, still not 100 percent healthy, has practiced on a limited basis so far. McClure has made a smooth transition to a new position. And Lowe has retained his job.
Senior James Langford, who played three years ago at Cal Poly, appears to have won the placekicker job after a camp battle with Noah Beito. “I’ll be surprised if that’s not how it ends up,” Dykes said. “His consistency has been better and he has a big leg.”
JC transfer Darius White, at one-time projected as a starting cornerback, practiced without a red jersey Thursday — albeit in a no pads workout — for the first time since jamming his shoulder on Aug. 4, the first day of fall camp. Dykes said he anticipates White will play some at Northwestern.