Like head coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch, and numerous teammates, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is preparing for his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. Another person entering his second season with the team is defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who on Thursday was asked about the growth of his young starting cornerback.

"You know, when he got here, he was this little scrawny corner that everyone said wouldn't hit anybody," Saleh told reporters. "He's turned into a man. If you look at him, he has great presence out on the football field. He's a grown man. He'll hit people. I couldn't be more pleased."

Expectations for Witherspoon this season, like the team, are high. The cornerback appears more confident as he enters his sophomore NFL season. Saleh was asked about that increased self-assurance.

"He has great confidence because he's gone out, he's done it, he's had success," he said. "He's completely morphed into this grown man that's got great confidence. He's in a great spot right now mentally. I'm excited to see where it goes."

General manager John Lynch, vice president of player personnel Adam Peters, and the rest of the 49ers' evaluators did a lot of homework on Witherspoon before making him a third-round draft pick last year. It was a selection that seems to have paid off for the team.

"When you use a third-round pick on somebody, you have great confidence, obviously," Saleh said. "We never had doubt (in his potential)."

While the 49ers are confident in Witherspoon, who appeared in 12 games last season with nine starts, Saleh did note that the cornerback still has a lot to learn before the coaching staff stops viewing him as a rookie.

"There's a lot of young players on our team that have a lot of potential, but potential doesn't mean anything unless you act on it," he said. "That goes with being deliberate in everything that they do. The great thing is that he has the mindset to approach every rep, whether it's walkthrough, practice, individual, it doesn't matter. He's working because he's trying to get to a place of greatness.

"I wouldn't bet against him."