It was a little weird seeing Mike Martz in a 49ers’ hat yesterday. I was in a packed lobby when I saw him make his way through the crowd, and the red hat – well, it just seemed odd for a guy who I still associate with the Rams’ blue and gold. Martz, however, said he feels as if he’s been wearing red and gold all along. He said he feels very comfortable with the 49ers’ staff and he’s had a permanent smile on his face all week. I got a chance to chat with Martz following today’s South practice. Here’s a teaser to the full Q&A that will run in Wednesday’s Bee:
Q: How will you utilize Vernon Davis?
A: In this system, you have so much flexibility within the numbers that you can be creative with a guy like him. You’ve got to be careful not to put too much on him, but it’s a great opportunity to use him in different venues so to speak. The system allows that kind of flexibility.
Q: Do you mean as far as lining him up as a receiver?
A: Getting him in the slot and putting him on the line of scrimmage. You can put him in the backfield and those kinds of things.
Q: As an H-back?
A: Yeah, you can do those kinds of things with him. The other thing about him is that normally those kinds of guys aren’t good in-line blockers. But he can do that. He’s talented.
Q: Have you spoken with Alex Smith or Shaun Hill yet?
A: Yeah. I talked to them on the phone. I looked at tape on both of them and told them how excited I was about both of them. And I think there’s some real talent with both guys. They’re real sharp guys who have played well, and it’ll be fun to get them together and get going.
Here’s what happened at today’s South practice:
Just like the North (Beau Bell, Kentwan Balmer), the South side was bit by the injury bug. LSU receiver Early Doucet pulled (Doucet’s phrase was “tweaked”) his left hamstring and the 49ers’ staff was looking to bring in a replacement Thursday morning. Mike Nolan said he was looking forward to seeing how Doucet, who is built more thickly than a lot of the South receivers, moved with the ball and was clearly disappointed that Doucet would be limited the rest of the week. Doucet missed five games this past season with a groin strain and we all know how Nolan feels about injury-prone players. (See: Plummer, Ahmed; Jennings, Jonas).
Speaking of receivers, two stood out today. Louisville’s Harry Douglas was extremely quick and was especially effective at stopping on a dime and creating separation with his opponent. The downside for Douglas is that he weighs only 170 pounds. Meanwhile, Florida’s Andre Caldwell (6-foot, 207 pounds) seemed to catch everything that came his way, including two touchdown catches when he went one-on-one with defensive backs. Texas’ Limas Sweed looks very fluid for a man his size (6-4, 212 pounds). But he has not fully recovered from the wrist injury that sidelined him for much of his senior season.
I spoke to a scout who said three guys stood out to him in Tuesday’s practice: Douglas, Maryland defensive lineman Dre Moore and Arkansas running back Peyton Hillis. Moore is big (6-4, 307 pounds) and has shown flashes of ability all season. The knock on him is that he’s also been lazy at times. He’s been much more consistent this week and was a handful for offensive linemen today. He’s a guy that could play defensive end in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme. Hillis, meanwhile, had the misfortune of being on the same team as Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. At 240 pounds and with thighs like oak trees, he’s the biggest back at the Senior Bowl.
Senior Bowl rules prohibit the 49ers from playing in a 3-4 defense. So they’re in a standard 4-3 all week. This is where the various linebackers on the squad lined up today: LOLB: LSU’s Ali Highsmith. MLB: Ga. Tech’s Philip Wheeler, South Florida’s Ben Moffitt. ROLB: Ga. Tech’s Gary Guyton, Kentucky’s Wesley Woodyard. Guyton replaced Miami’s Tavares Gooden who had a preexisting hip injury. Iowa State defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin also was added to the South roster.
Nolan said there are “three or four” players on his roster who could play both defensive end and linebacker. One of them is Mississippi State’s Titus Brown, who is listed on the Senior Bowl roster as a linebacker but who played defensive end today. Brown played left defensive end for the Bulldogs this past season, finishing with 13 ½ tackles for loss, eight of which were sacks. Let’s just say he’s on the 49ers’ radar.
Here’s what Nolan had to say about LSU running back Jacob Hester, a short 230-pounder who’s been described as a throwback-type player. “I saw some of his games this season and he kept catching my eye … He’s a football player. And that’s what you want.” Hester mainly was a tailback at LSU but Nolan said he would probably be a fullback in the NFL.
I ran into Jim Hostler, who is looking to catch on with another staff. With just about every coach and front-office official in Mobile this week, the Senior Bowl is a fantastic place to network. Some other coaching tidbits: Mike Martz said he has mixed feeling about son, Tim, joining him in San Francisco. Martz said he doesn’t want Tim’s successes to be tied solely to him … Trent Dilfer as 49ers’ quarterbacks coach? Not likely at all. Then again, that’s what I said about Martz as offensive coordinator.
-- Matt Barrows