Nose tackle Sione Fua weighed in at 307 pounds at today's Senior Bowl, which is much lighter than a typical NFL nose tackle but perfect for one who plays in Vic Fangio's 3-4 system. How do we know that? Because Fua was Fangio's nose tackle last year at Stanford.
Fua said Fangio, the 49ers new defensive coordinator, didn't want him to be an immovable object in his defensive scheme. "He'd move us around a lot, and we'd run a lot of stunts," said Fua. He also said that Fangio's defense was more of a hybrid 3-4 and that the Cardinal also played a lot of 4-3 formations last year.
Fua sounds a lot like the 49ers' current nose tackle, Aubrayo Franklin, who isn't known as much for his size as he is for his quickness and savvy. Both Fua and Owen Marecic, who played both inside linebacker and fullback at Stanford, spoke highly of Fangio today. They said that he was aggressive with his schemes and that he was constantly tinkering with them to better take advantage of specific opponents. The key to their success at Stanford, they said, was movement and variation.
Fua said that when Fangio first arrived, he showed them films of NFL defenses he had coached, especially the Ravens defense. Fangio was a special assistant to Ravens coach John Harbaugh before joining Jim Harbaugh at Stanford in 2010.
Although most of Marecic's snaps last season came as a linebacker, he's being looked at exclusively as a fullback at the Senior Bowl. In fact, most evaluators rank Marecic - who measured up at 6-0, 246 pounds today - as the top fullback in the draft. Marecic said the beauty of Harbaugh's offense last year was that it was adaptable. It was equally efficient through the air as it was on the ground, although he admitted that Harbaugh did seem to relish out-muscling opponents at the end of the game. "We had the personnel to do it and the power to do it," Maresic said.
Both of the teams coaching the Senior Bowl run 4-3 defenses. But they will allow the hybrid defensive ends on hand - and there are several - some time this week to show what they can do from a standing position. With more teams using a 3-4 system, versatile outside linebackers are more in vogue than ever.
A few of the players who are training as outside linebackers are former defensive ends Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue and Brooks Reed of Arizona. The 6-4 Kerrigan was a chiseled 255 pounds at today's weigh-in, which is 10 pounds less than he weighed at Purdue. Reed came in at 6-2 ½, 257 pounds. Both reported that they have been working like crazy on their coverage skills, something they rarely had to do in college.
Another potential 3-4 outside linebacker is Boston College's Mark Herzlich, who has perhaps the most inspirational story at the Senior Bowl. Herzlich missed the 2009 season due to a rare form of bone cancer but came back for the 2010 season. He said the cancer is in remission and that he was surprised that the team officials he's talked to so far haven't made more of a big deal of it.
"It really hasn't been as big an issue as I expected it to be," Herzlich said. "I guess they'll let their doctors worry about that stuff. They're mostly concerned about what I do on the field." Herzlich measured in at 6-3 ½ and weighed 250 pounds.
If the 49ers are looking for a more traditional nose tackle, Baylor's Phil Taylor fits the description. Taylor was the heaviest player at the combine, coming in at 6-3, 337 pounds. ... Von Miller, the Texas A&M defensive end who has 27 ½ sacks the last two seasons, came in a little smaller than expected. Miller stood 6-2 ½ but weighed only 237 pounds.
-- Matt Barrows