49ers Blog and Q&A

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

January 23, 2008
Senior Bowl: South squad shows fight

After watching the North and South practice for three straight days, I feel confident about the following: The North (Raiders) practices are more aesthetically pleasing; the South’s (49ers) are more physical. The North seems to be concentrating on their downfield passing game as shown by four long receptions by Cal’s Lavelle Hawkins today. The South is working on its inside running game. There were plenty of battles in the pits today, one of which ended in a pretty good tussle between 321-pound tackle Heath Benedict of Newberry College and 275-pound defensive lineman Kendall Langford of Hampton. As any 49er follower will note, fighting isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Mike Nolan’s book.

I didn't think that running back would be very high on the 49ers' list of priorities, but perhaps I was wrong. Consider what Nolan said when asked about Matt Forte, a 221-pound bruiser from Tulane: "I'm curious to see what he does in a game. He's a bigger back. ... We've got an outstanding back in San Francisco in Frank Gore but we're looking for a big back also who can take some of the load off of him. So he's a guy I'm kind of watching a little bit just to see what he can do." Hmmm.

Here’s more evidence that Mike Martz’s wide-open offense hasn’t quite kicked in yet. The South quarterbacks have thrown a lot of passes to Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam. At 6-8, Cottam offers a huge target, and the big tight end has caught everything that’s been thrown in his direction. He certainly isn’t the fastest guy on the field, but he seems to do a good job of finding the holes in the defense.

The 49ers have lost the two biggest names in their receiving corps. LSU’s Early Doucet and Texas’ Limas Sweed are both projected to be first-round picks next month. Doucet has a left hamstring pull. He is hoping that it will heal enough to allow him to play Saturday. Sweed was bothered by the wrist injury that shortened his senior season. Maybe the injuries are legitimate. Or maybe both players felt they had shown enough earlier in the week and didn’t want to risk a more severe injury. In any event, their departures leave the South squad in a bit of a lurch. They picked up Appalachian State wideout Dexter Jackson today and there's a possibility Coastal Carolina’s Jerome Simpson will be added as well. Jackson, who had two touchdowns in Appalachian State’s upset of Michigan earlier this year, made an immediate impact today with a nice diving catch over the middle of the field.

Spoke with Trent Dilfer who will be one of the announcers during Saturday’s game. It doesn’t seem like the 49ers want Dilfer back next season, and Dilfer said he has not yet decided whether he wants to play at all in 2008. He said he only recently felt fully recovered from the concussion that knocked him out of the final three games on the season. “It’s just too early,” he said of his decision. “If you want to talk a month from now I can give you a lot more information. I always take this month to decompress.”

Nolan and the 49ers coaches will have a chance to sit down and meet with the North squad players for about a half hour tomorrow evening. Remember, it was this sit down that helped convince the 49ers to draft Michael Robinson in the fourth round two years ago.

I take back what I said about the lack of fine grub in Mobile. I had dinner at a place called Wintzell's Oyster House downtown. I ordered the gumbo and a dozen fried oysters. With a touch of Tabasco, there may not be anything tastier. Four stars and my compliments to the chef ...

-- 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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