San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley is excited about his young secondary. He is noticing how quickly the group is improving. Luckily, Hafley has some help coaching up young players like cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Adrian Colbert.

Richard Sherman, the veteran cornerback who signed with the 49ers in March, has not yet been cleared by the team to practice. Not content with waiting around, Sherman has been doing everything he can to help improve the young group of players and can often be seen offering suggestions during practices.

In the meeting room, Hafley will start a discussion with the seven-year veteran (entering his eighth year), look around, and realize that his younger players don't really understand the conversation they are having. Rather than overwhelm the group, Hafley decides to table such discussions with Sherman.

"'Sherm, we'll talk about that later,'" Hafley will tell him. "I can't get that in all their minds right now."

Hafley appreciates having the help while Sherman is recovering from his ruptured Achilles suffered in a November matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Once he is cleared to practice, however, things will change.

"I'm going to tell you, though, when he gets back to playing, it's going to be, 'You're not here for that reason anymore. You're here to go out and dominate and play at a really high level because that's why you're here,'" Hafley said on Wednesday. "That's why I'm excited. I can't wait for him to get out and practice. I think he's going to bring up the competitiveness of the group."

One young player who impressed during his rookie campaign last year is Colbert. Hafley was asked what he envisions for the young safety in his second NFL season and where he expects Colbert to make his most significant strides.

"I think last year he was kind of in survivor mode," Hafley said. "If you guys all remember, we kind of moved him late to the position and literally would be like, 'Alright AC, you stand on this hash, or you stand on this hash, and you go play football.' Now there is more teaching because we have time with him to really understand the why and understand what offenses are going to do to attack us. And it's cool to see him pick up on things like that, and it's cool to see him get angry when he knows, 'Man, I really could have made that play if I had done that like we talked about.'

"Besides that, the instincts, the speed, the way he can track the ball, the way he gets there, how he practices, it's exciting. He's been a lot of fun to watch so far."

Another second-year player who Hafley expects to take a big step forward is cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.

"I think the cool part is if you put on tape of Ahkello from last year's OTAs and now, you wouldn't have any idea it was him," Hafley said. "Just the steps he took all season, which we already talked about, confidence. He believes in himself now. He knows he can do it now, and he believes he can do it at a very high level.

"To see him actually day by day get better on things has been a lot of fun to watch. He takes things very seriously. He's really a very intelligent person, and he studies the tape, and he learns quickly from his mistakes. And I think day by day, you do see him get better, and you see him get more confident."

Hafley also discussed rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore, who is converting from safety. Hafley describes Moore as very instinctual on the football field and a quick learner.

"He still has to get more experience at the position because he still shows, at times, he's a little raw," Hafley said. "But it's exciting."

Jimmie Ward will earn $8.5 million in 2018, which makes him the most expensive player on defense. The salary could also make him the most expensive backup on the team. Ward, who has experience at safety, nickel, and cornerback during his four-year NFL career is making a transition from safety back to cornerback.

"He's played free safety last year in this system so we know he can do it, and we believe he can do that at a high level," Hafley said of Ward. "Now, our main focus with him is: just go out, get your feet back under yourself from being a corner like you were two years ago, learn this system, it's a little bit different, it's not just man all the time, and we'll go from there with Jimmie."

As Hafley said, Ward last played at cornerback in 2016 when Jim O'Neil was the defensive coordinator. That was also the year Hafley joined the 49ers as the defensive backs coach, so he has an extra year of experience with Ward than others within the current regime.

"I respect Jimmie," Hafley said. "I really respect Jimmie so much. I think the world of him as a person, as a football player. I've been here. I've seen him play corner. I've seen him play free safety. I've seen him be injured. I've seen him battle back. I'm just excited for the guy to go out, practice every day, get more comfortable with things, and see what he can do next year."