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June 5, 2012
OTA notes: 293-pound fullback catches touchdown pass

tukuafu1.jpg

One of the sights of the day was 293-pound Will Tukuafu catching a swing pass from Alex Smith and then racing inside linebacker Patrick Willis to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. (Willis claimed that he tagged Tukuafu at the 1-yard line but did not win the argument).

Tukuafu's primary job is defensive end, but he's exclusively played fullback in the two practices - last week and today - that have been open to the media. He seems to be one of those three-way players Jim Harbaugh was talking about last week. Tukuafu began last season on the 53-man squad and had a sizable role on special teams, which is where he suffered the broken wrist that cost him the season.

Tukuafu, playing behind first-string fullback Bruce Miller, showed nice finesse today in the non-padded practices. But Harbaugh said there's more to come. "Will's doing a great job athletically," Harbaugh said. "I think the best will come when he puts on the pads, and that's when it will get really exciting and fun."

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Wideout Randy Moss had one of his vintage catches on a goal-line on a throw from Colin Kaepernick. Tarell Brown had tight coverage and knocked the ball away from Moss. But Brown didn't knock it away far enough. Moss reached up and with quick hands snagged it out of the air for the touchdown ... Moss, however, didn't catch everything. Josh Johnson, who throws the nicest ball of all the quarterbacks, hit Moss in stride on a deep pass in the end zone. Moss, however, only reached out one arm and did not come up with the catch. (He had a few, choice, four-letter words for himself after the drop).

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* Rookie A.J. Jenkins stumbled while running an out route against Chris Culliver, who leapt to pick off Smith's throw at the sideline. On the next play, Kyle Williams beat Culliver on the same route. Scott Tolzien fired the pass, and Williams did a toe-tapper at the sideline.

* Rookie Nathan Palmer beat cornerback Perrish Cox on a deep route but could not haul in a perfectly thrown pass from Smith.

* A short pass from Smith to Williams that was behind the receiver was tipped in the air and intercepted by Willis.

* The best-looking player on Tuesday may have been Michael Crabtree, who looked very quick in and out of breaks and who caught several passes in the middle of the field. Crabtree lined up in the slot position during one red-zone play, and that's where he may see a lot of action on third downs this year.

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The first-team offense ran the two-minute drill against the second-team defense. Smith hit Crabtree over the middle to get the offense close to the goal line. On the next play, he tossed an easy touchdown to Vernon Davis, who had gotten on top of rookie safety Trenton Robinson. Davis was cited by Harbaugh as one of the standouts this spring. "Vernon Davis is having an outstanding offseason, every day, just getting better at route-running -- every facet of the position," Harbaugh said.

Johnson, meanwhile, led the second-team offense against the first-team defense. He connected on his first three passes - to Jenkins, running back Jewel Hampton and Brett Swain. But the drive then ended with four straight incompletions, including a drop by Jenkins.

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With right tackle Anthony Davis back at practice, Alex Boone returned to right guard with the first-team offensive line. The right guard for the second team was Derek Hall. The rest of the second-team line looked like this: LT Mike Person, LG Garrett Chisolm, C Daniel Kilgore, RT Kenny Wiggins.

Et cetera -- NaVorro Bowman missed practice; Larry Grant filled in and played next to Patrick Willis.

* Cory Nelms was back at safety after moonlighting at wide receiver last week; Alternately, Ben Hannula was back at wide receiver after playing safety last week.

* Cornerback Curtis Holcomb joined Carlos Rogers, Ted Ginn and Joe Looney in a rehab session. All four players worked their way up to sprinting, which suggests that none of the injuries is serious.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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