B.J Daniels never played any position but quarterback at South Florida. Quarterbacks, however, are nothing if not studious and prepared. And Daniels figured it was a good idea to diversify his portfolio in the run-up to the draft.
The 49ers' seventh-round draft pick rounded up the school's punter and worked on his punt-return skills throughout the spring in Tampa. That preparation came in handy at the end of Friday's initial 49ers practice when Daniels - he and Nate Montana are the only two rookies playing quarterback this weekend - was told to join a group of wide receivers and defensive backs taking turns at punt and kick returns.
Daniels didn't look at out place. "I'm comfortable with my hands and, like I said, anything I can do to help out is what I'm going to do," said Daniels, adding that he prepared himself for punt returns this spring, "just to keep my options open."
That versatility probably is Daniels' ticket to making the 49ers' roster this summer. The team needs players who can handle punt and kick returns after Ted Ginn signed with the Panthers in free agency. Kyle Williams and Kendall Hunter likely are the frontrunners for both duties, but both players are coming off of season-ending injuries suffered Nov. 25. The 49ers need options.
When the 5-11 Daniels stepped out of the locker room to meet the media today, he looked more like a running back than a quarterback, and he took a few handoffs early in Friday's practice. However, he worked solely with the quarterbacks - and coach Jim Harbaugh - during the position and team portions of practice.
On the other side of the field, another former college quarterback, MarQueis Gray, was learning a new position - tight end. Gray, who stands 6-4 and weighs 245 pounds, said he figured that would be his NFL position before the Texas vs. Nation all-star game in February. The organizers sent him an email prior to the game. The good news: He had been invited. The challenging news: NFL scouts wanted him to play tight end, something he had never done before.
Gray said the transition mostly was smooth in Texas. After all, he was only asked to hit blocking dummies and to play against other college athletes who hadn't been invited to the more marquee all-star events.
Friday's 49ers practice, he said, was rougher. He's having to hit moving targets all the while learning the verbiage of a new system and a new position. Still, he's up for the challenge. "I'm the type of player that likes to be on the field," he said. "I don't like to sit on the sideline."
Daniels, meanwhile, said his biggest obstacle so far was learning the playbook, which he called, "a good read." "Right now I'm just trying to make sure I know how to tie my shows and walk correctly," he said.
-- Matt Barrows