49ers Blog and Q&A

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

January 21, 2009
Senior Bowl: Standouts from Wednesday's practice

Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher was the best player at practice on Wednesday. He seemed unbeatable in one-on-one blocking drills, and several times he drove his opponent into the grass and then landed on top of him for good measure. It seems Oher has that nasty streak offensive line coaches love. ... Another good blocker is Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who is sporting a Mohawk this week. Pettigrew, who stands 6-5 and weighs 257 pounds, appears to be the rare tight end who can both block and catch passes. Some already-good team is going to pick him later in the first round and be very happy. ... Antoine Caldwell won't be a high pick, but the Alabama guard was very solid on Wednesday.

Rey Maualuga got all the advance praise, but it's another USC linebacker, Brian Cushing, who has generated a lot of buzz from the scouts this week. Cushing measured in at 243 pounds, and I wonder if he could be a candidate for Ted linebacker. ... Northern Illinois' Larry English is one of the best edge rushers here. He's solely played defensive end at the Senior Bowl, but at 254 pounds is far too light to be an end in the 49ers' scheme. The question is whether he's agile enough to stand up and play linebacker, something he did from time to time at Northern Illinois. "That wasn't our dominant scheme, but there were times I got to do that and build a certain comfort level doing that," English said after the morning practice. English said he had not spoken to the 49ers.

A little clarification on Cincinnati tight end/defensive end Connor Barwin. He was a tight end at Cincinnati - and a good one - until the Bearcats moved him to defensive end his senior season. It turned out to be a good move. Barwin had 11 sacks last season and NFL Draft Scout has him as the 6th best defensive end in the draft. He is being listed as a tight end at the Senior Bowl because that was the best way to get him on a roster here in Mobile. However, the Bengals have given him a few snaps as a defensive end yesterday and today. Barwin's another guy who might intrigue the 49ers as pass-rush linebacker. In fact, that might be the rare position this year that is better, draft-wise, than it was last year.

I also had a brief chat with B.J. Raji, who is perhaps the hottest name at the Senior Bowl and who happens to play a position of need for the 49ers. More on that later this week. ... Very few scouts will attend tomorrow's practices and there will be walk-throughs on Friday. Barrows is puttering out of Gulfport tomorrow, Canada geese willing ...

-- 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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