49ers Blog and Q&A

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

March 11, 2008
O'Sullivan as the starter? Martz says, 'Why not?'

As far as the 49ers’ quarterback competition goes, there’s an assumption that Alex Smith and Shaun Hill will duke it out for the starting spot this offseason while newcomer J.T. O’Sullivan will slide conveniently into the No. 3 spot. Not so fast, says offensive coordinator Mike Martz. I spoke with Martz today for a story I’m writing about O’Sullivan, a Sacramento native, and he insisted that O’Sullivan had just as good a chance as Smith and Hill of becoming the 49ers’ starter in 2008.

In fact, Martz predicted that O’Sullivan would jump out to an early lead when the team’s offseason program begins on Monday because of his familiarity with Martz and Martz’s system. (O’Sullivan was a backup in Detroit last season). When I told him that most observers thought Smith, or possibly Hill, would eventually move to the top spot, Martz said that was a bad assumption. “Heck, no,” he said. “(O’Sullivan) is capable of being a starter in this league. He’s not a reliever, if you will. He’s not a backup. He’ll take full advantage of (the competition). He’s a very fierce competitor.”

There’s reason to believe that Martz isn’t just whistling Dixie on this. Like O’Sullivan, all of the quarterbacks with whom Martz has had success in the past – Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger, Trent Green, Jon Kitna – entered the NFL as huge underdogs. Warner and Kitna weren’t drafted. Bulger was a sixth-round pick while Green was an eighth rounder. Nothing came easy to those quarterbacks and they developed what Martz calls “a certain persistence” that he admires. He said he senses the same thing in O’Sullivan. Whether O’Sullivan can rise to the top as Warner, Green, Bulger and Kitna did remains to be seen. But one thing’s for certain – the 49ers are going to have a helluva quarterback competition this spring.

Why, Carl, why? That’s what I was asking myself this morning after reading that my guy, Nebraska OT Carl Nicks, got into a recent scrape with the po po in Lincoln. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Nicks was one of several current and former Cornhusker players at raucous, beer-strewn house party in northwest Lincoln. When police arrived to break up the party, Nicks reportedly refused to leave. He was ticketed on suspicion of being an inmate of a disorderly house and failure to disperse.

For the last month, the big fellow has been my longshot for the 49ers and their No. 29 pick. He had a great Senior Bowl, followed that up with an excellent combine and has been rocketing up the draft boards in recent weeks. In short, Nicks has been making me look like a genius. Until now. Failing to leave a party isn’t the worse offense in the world, but it certainly doesn’t help his draft stock, either. Why would someone on the verge of becoming a first-round selection put that accomplishment at risk? Why, Carl, why?

Cal held its pro day this morning. Receiver DeSean Jackson rested on his sterling numbers from the combine, but Lavelle Hawkins, who really stood out at the Senior Bowl, took part in some drills. When those numbers become available, I’ll post them here.

-- 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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