Eight-year veteran Richard Sherman, once completely healthy, is slated to be one of the starting two outside cornerbacks for the San Francisco 49ers. Across from him will be a young second-year player by the name of Ahkello Witherspoon. Sherman believes that young player can become a great one this year and an elite cornerback over the course of his career.

Meanwhile, Witherspoon is merely excited for the opportunity to learn from a three-time first-team All-Pro, one whom he admired growing up.

"It's incredible the way it worked," Witherspoon said in May. "All I wanted throughout college was to play across from Sherman. He was an idol of mine, and now seeing him every day; he's just a regular dude. Still great, don't get me wrong. Just to have that opportunity to learn from him, to pick his brain, that's all I craved.

"In terms of playing across from him? I just wanted it so I could understand what he knows and learn the game from how he sees it, to build on the athleticism and what I already bring to the game."

Witherspoon started nine games for the 49ers as a rookie last season. He accumulated 32 combined tackles, two interceptions, seven passes defensed, and a forced fumble.

Sherman invited his new teammate to his Elite Cornerback Academy at Stanford University in late June. Witherspoon got to train with, and learn from, about ten of the top cornerbacks in the game – names like Aqib Talib, Darius Slay, Xavier Rhodes, and, of course, Sherman.

Members of the group had an opportunity to break down their own film and explain what makes them among the best at their position. For example, Rhodes broke down when and how to be aggressive in man coverage. Talib explained how he disguises his coverages. Sherman discussed his mastery of defending fade routes.

"I was watching these guys on TV in college, on Monday Night Football, in the playoffs, and to be around them is just a blessing. It's surreal," Witherspoon said via Robert Klemko of The MMQB. "I think this is the group I belong in, and turning on the tape confirms that."

Witherspoon has yet to play in a postseason game but hopes that will change this season. The group at Stanford discussed how the game gets even faster in the playoffs. The 49ers' second-year cornerback sat and absorbed as much information as possible, hoping to utilize it soon. When the cornerbacks get together again next offseason, Witherspoon hopes to be able to contribute more to the postseason discussion.

"I invited him because I thought he could hold his own," Sherman said of Witherspoon. "I think from being around him, working with him, working out with him, watching him in OTAs and minicamp, I knew he could keep up with the workflow. I knew he would look the part. I knew, drill-wise, he wouldn't be overwhelmed. His footwork is beautiful and technical. I knew that in terms of demeanor and just being able to just walk around and not be star-struck by these guys, he'd be fine. I think he belongs with those guys, and people will figure that out in a few months."

Sherman, Witherspoon, and the rest of the 49ers report to training camp on July 25 with their first practice taking place the next day. Witherspoon has already set some lofty goals for the upcoming season.

"I expect for us to be the best defense in the league," Witherspoon said. "I like to think we'll be able to play 9-on-9, with myself and Sherman out there taking out two receivers. It's a matter of coming together, playing fast and making those plays when they come."

Click here to read Klemko's entire feature.