Rookie Bruce Miller is being given every opportunity to win a spot on the roster and to perhaps bump 10-year veteran Moran Norris off of it. Miller was sent into Saturday's game against the Raiders ahead of Norris, and he promises to get even more playing time in two days against the Texans.
"I knew I was going to get in their early. I just had to get in and make the best of my opportunities," said Miller, who is converting from defensive end. "I think I did well. But I'm my biggest critic and we have a long way to go."
Miller's highlights included a swing pass from buddy Colin Kaepernick, which he took up the sideline for nine yards and a first down. Perhaps more important to coaches, Miller also stood up Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour, a six-time pro bowler on a blocking assignment.
The 49ers have three options. They can keep Norris and not Miller, a seventh-round pick. They can both Miller and Norris, or they can keep the rookie and cut the veteran. Miller is faster and more fluid than Norris, 33, and would allow the 49ers to be more versatile on offense. Norris, however, has more experience at what a fullback primarily needs to be good at - blocking.
Miller said that part of the game has been more complicated than he expected when told he was moving to fullback. In fact, learning how to be a pass catcher - counter intuitive for a defensive end - has been easy in comparison to the intricacies of blocking.
"Everything - footwork, landmarks, making contact and driving your feet in the guy. All that stuff I'm working on and trying to get better," Miller said. "It's made me have a lot more respect for those guys on the other side of the ball. It's tough to get yourself in the right position to make a block, especially in the pass protection."
The 49ers obviously favor multiple tight end sets over fullbacks, so Delanie Walker has ended up seeing more snaps with the first-team unit than Miller and Norris. I plan to chart their snaps when they play the Texans.
Miller is a carrot top. He's got a mop of curly red hair and a full beard to anchor it. This, of course, has led to a number of nicknames over the years. "I've heard it all," said Miller, noting that "Big Red" and "Redbeard" have been popular. Outside linebacker Parys Haralson called him "Dirty Red" the other day. His nickname at Central Florida - and the one I think is the best - was "Diablo Rojo."
-- Matt Barrows