49ers Blog and Q&A

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

August 9, 2012
Harbaugh wants jacks of all trades at bottom of the roster


Demarcus Dobbs says he's fine with wearing No. 40. But what's he supposed to do with all that No. 96 gear?

"My family was a little upset because they just went out and got some 96 stuff," the defensive end/tight end said as he walked off the practice field Wednesday.

Like the rest of the 49ers' defensive players, Dobbs was wearing a white jersey. (The offensive players wear red). But his new number, 40, is in the tight-end range. That will allow Dobbs to enter games as a pass catcher without having to check in with the officials first.

Jim Harbaugh likes players who can fill multiple roles. If fact, if you're trying to figure out who will earn the last few spots on the 53-man roster - as well as spots on the practice squad - take a good look at the players pulling double duty.

Cory Nelms, for instance, last year won the team's Thomas Herrion Award because, as a member of the practice squad, he was willing and able to fill a number of roles - from cornerback to safety to wide receiver.

"This guy gives a lot to this team," secondary coach Ed Donatell said of Nelms. "Whatever they ask him to do. There's been times when there's been late changes and they say, 'We need you to be a receiver today.' He doesn't blink. He goes and does it. Those are Harbaugh's kind of guys that he wants around the team. So we'll see how it plays out."

Said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio of Nelms: "Cory's a jack of all trades. We play him at corner and safety. We've kind of focused him at safety here primarily lately. But he's played both corner, and you guys also know that he's played some wide receiver in the past. So, he's trying to make this team primarily as a safety, but also as a jack of all trades."

The other defensive players who have moonlighted on offense - defensive end Will Tukuafu, Ben Hannula and Michael Wilhoite - have kept their defensive numbers. Tukuafu, No. 92, likely will play left defensive end when Ray McDonald leaves the game. He also has spent time as a fullback.

Wilhoite, No. 57, has been playing inside linebacker with the third-team defense and has received some work as a fullback. Hannula apparently has made a permanent switch from defensive back to receiver, but has been wearing No. 35 throughout practice.

Dobbs, meanwhile, said he hasn't been told what his role will be in Friday's preseason opener against the Vikings. But he said if training-camp practices are any indication, he'll split time between offense and defense. Asked if No. 40 is permanent, Dobbs said he didn't know.

It will depend on whether he makes the team or not, he said.

-- 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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