49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 7, 2007
Training camp observations, Aug. 7.

When the 49ers drafted defensive lineman Joe Cohen in the fourth round this past April, a lot of people thought it was the death knell for Isaac Sopoaga. After all, the coaches wanted Cohen to play the same position as Sopoaga, who, while far from being a failure, had not lived up to his potential as a dominating interior lineman.

After a week of practice, however, I can report that the competition between the two isn't even close. Sopoaga is far, far, ahead of the rookie at this point. On one play during 11-on-11 drills Tuesday, center Eric Heitmann not only pushed Cohen out of the hole but put him flat on his back. Later in the practice, back-up lineman Sean Estrada had his way with Cohen on two straight plays.

Sopoaga, meanwhile, is having a very good camp and will be the 49ers' first-team nose tackle while Aubrayo Franklin recovers from a knee injury over the next month. I'm writing a story about Sopoaga that will run in tomorrow's Bee.

In other training-camp news, Mike Nolan talked more about the situation at receiver, where 10 guys are competing to make the team. Nolan on Tuesday said "four, five or six" receivers would make the 53-man roster. The two who appear to be duking it out for the final spot are Taylor Jacobs and Brandon Williams. Nolan feels Williams is the more trustworthy punt-return man but that Jacobs shows more burst on returns. The coach also feels that Jacobs is the more established receiver but that Williams is making great strides in that area. In other words, Nolan is being quite cryptic about who is leading the race.

Tully Banta-Cain got on me today about describing him in Monday's story as roly poly. Apparently, his mom saw the story and didn't like the adjective one bit. I tried to explain to Banta-Cain that a roly poly was one of the toughest, most fearsome creatures in the insect kingdom, but he wasn't buying it. So here's my correction: Tully Banta-Cain is an Adonis who should have been cast as one of the Spartans in "300" and who would put Vernon Davis to shame in an ab competition. We cool now?

Nolan not only will attend Bill Walsh's private memorial on Thursday, the former 49ers coach had asked that the current 49ers coach say a few words.

By the way, Nolan's insistence on wearing a suit this season earned him a little national publicity. According to the team's spokesman, Nolan is No. 11 on Esquire's list of best dressed men.

I'm not a big ESPN guy. But I couldn't help chatting it up with reporter Colleen Dominguez during the morning practice today. (Can you blame me?). Which explains why I don't have a lot of training-camp observations today. (Can you blame me?).

-- Matt Barrows.


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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