The 3-4 or 4-3? That is the question sparked by some of Scot McCloughan's comments yesterday. The answer is that the 49ers will be able to play either defense in 2008, although they probably are one player away from being perfectly suited for either alignment. To be an ideal 3-4 team, the 49ers would need a superior pass-rushing linebacker in the mold of Lawrence Taylor, Shawne Merriman or DeMarcus Ware. To be a quintessential 4-3 team, they need a pass-rush specialist in the mold of Michael Strahan, Mario Williams or Osi Umenyiora. The truth is that finding either player with pick No. 29 is a bit of a long shot. But just for kicks, here are some of the pass rushers who might be available with the 49ers' first couple of picks in next month's draft:
1. Quentin Groves, Auburn. The 6-3, 259-pounder is a nice fit at outside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme. He had such a good combine, however, that he might not be around by the time the 49ers pick.
2. Philip Merling, Clemson. 6-4, 276. Some think Merling can be a linebacker in a 3-4 (a la Merriman) but he's probably best suited as a 4-3 defensive end. He's been all over the board in recent mock drafts, which suggests that NFL evaluators have varying opinions of him. He's a junior and the 49ers are wary of juniors.
3. Lawrence Jackson, USC. At 6-4, 271 pounds, Jackson is just the right size for a 4-3 defensive end, had 10 1/2 sacks for the Trojans last season and he put up good, not great, numbers recently at the combine. He might be a reach in the second round but probably won't be around by the third.
4. Cliff Avril, Purdue, 6-2, 253. Like Groves, Avril is a pass-rush specialist at outside linebacker. Purdue has produced several 3-4 outside linebacker and Avril fits the mold. He's a little smaller than his predecessors. Would he be a stretch at pick No. 39?
Evidently the NFL Network is a big fan of this blog. One of their draft experts last night predicted the 49ers would go with Indiana WR James Hardy with their first-round pick. He also said they could surprise people and go with Notre Dame DT Trevor Laws. Surprise? I've been beating the Trevor Laws drum since January, pal. The rest of the world is only now catching up with Barrows. (If I start seeing Car Nicks predictions, I'll know something is up).
Grab your leg warmers and position a bucket of water on your ceiling: It's time to tap into your inner Flashdance. The 49ers are holding Gold Rush cheerleading auditions on Sunday, March 30 at Maples Pavilion at Stanford University. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and auditions begin at 10 a.m. The audition will consist of learning a short dance combination taught by a professional choreographer. If you ever watched "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team" on the Country Music Channel (Maiocco keeps telling me it's really hot) you know what the audition process is like. Here's another look:
Some more info about becoming an NFL cheerleader. They get paid per game and per appearance and are given two tickets to each 49ers home game (Incentive to get your wife of girlfriend involved!). How many appearances are there? Plenty. The Gold Rush participate in more than 600 community appearances each year. This year a group of 10 is traveling to Japan for a corporate event, and this past season cheerleaders traveled Hong Kong, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. (At least someone from the organization gets to perform in the Super Bowl)...For more info, visit www.49ers.com.
-- Matt Barrows