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December 19, 2013
Dixon says history at tailback will help him at fullback

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Will Tukuafu on Wednesday took Bruce Miller's spot on the 49ers' roster. Which player will assume Miller's role as the team's do-everything fullback is unresolved, but Anthony Dixon said he's been preparing for the job.

"I've been doing it for two years, and I feel like I'm ready," Dixon said. "So let's go." The 6-1, 233-pound Dixon began his NFL career as a shifty tailback, and he ran for 3,994 yards in Mississippi State's wide-open offense.

Last year, however, the 49ers asked him to add fullback to his resume, a position at which he's appeared only a few times since, including four snaps when Miller left Sunday's game with what turned out to be a broken shoulder blade. The 49ers placed him on injured reserve Wednesday, ending his season.

Dixon, Tukuafu and tight end Derek Carrier likely will fill in in various ways for Miller, who has played nearly 60 percent of the team's offensive snaps this year. Tukuafu primarily has been a defensive linemen during his career, which included the last three seasons with the 49ers. But he played 90 snaps for San Francisco at fullback last season, and in announcing that he signed a two-year deal on Wednesday, the 49ers listed his position as fullback, not defensive lineman/fullback as it had been in the past.

At 6-4, 293 pounds, Tukuafu presumably would specialize in short-yardage situations.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick said the 49ers will miss Miller but that they hope to retain their identity as a power-based, run-first offense.

"We're going to have to see how it plays out," Kaepernick said. "That's going to be kind of what we figure out this week, I think. Is our game plan going to change? Do we feel more comfortable in a different set because Bruce isn't in there now? Is it something where we have to revamp different things? But I think for the most part we'll say true to who we are continue doing what we've been doing."

Dixon said he's up for the task.

He said his background as a tailback should help him guide Frank Gore through the defense. And he said he's been trying to get a feel for how Gore thinks since he arrived with the 49ers in 2010.

"We'll talk every day -- in the steam room, in the hot tub, we communicate," Dixon said. "That's how we get on the same page. That's how we go out there and do good work. So we're communicating all the time. We'll probably be talking tonight some more, maybe through text messages or something. I already know what he's looking for. I'm just looking to be physical."

Dixon's primary role the last two seasons has been on special teams. And the smash-mouth mentality needed to play on the coverage units should serve him well at fullback.

"I mean, he's someone who has no fear running through holes, taking on linebackers," Kaepernick said. "He kind of lives for that type of thing. So I'm excited to see what he can do when he gets in there. He normally has a pretty good feel for the game. To see him in there as a full-time guy or however the end up working it out. It'll be interesting to see how he plays (on) game day."

-- 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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