Posts Tagged ‘Trent Baalke’

Well, Trent Baalke and the 49ers have done it again…

In the this year’s NFL Draft, they managed to pull two draft picks out of their sleeve that no one saw coming.  This was not much unlike the 2011 draft when  Baalke and then first year NFL head coach, Jim Harbaugh, put their heads together to find two key pieces in building a foundation for the 49ers defense in years to come: Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver.

Both players paid dividends in their first season.  Smith’s efforts (14 sacks) won him NFL Rookie of the Year award and Culliver developed into the teams nickel cornerback and a valuable contributor for one of the league’s top special teams units.  Coach and General Manager have earned instant credibility with their ability to evaluate and select players that will have a lasting future on their roster.

This year they decided to go on the offensive with their first two selections.

With the 3oth overall pick in the 2012 draft, they selected wide receiver AJ Jenkins from the University of Illinois.  Like many others, I was rooting for the Niners to pick Coby Fleener, a versatile 6’6″ tigt end from Harbaugh’s last coaching stop, Stanford University.  When I heard the name AJ Jenkins, my response was, “who?”

But, after watching some game film on Jenkins, I can see that he is a vertical threat, has excellent hands, and he is involved in all levels of the passing game.  He catches the ball on all types of routes including the post, fade, slant, shallow cross, deep out and corner.  He also lines up in multiple positions, in the slot, on and off the ball and is deployed in motion to take advantage of his speed.

Watch the clips of his Big Ten game against Northwestern and see what Harbaugh was talking about when he described Jenkins as being “very versatile … we probably would start him out at one position and teach him that. Then we’ll transition with him. He’s a very smart guy, very bright guy. I don’t think it will be a problem for him to pick up and learn multiple positions.”

If you are intrigued and you want to see more of Jenkins and the versatility he will bring to the 49er offense, watch his highlight reel.  Some people [bloggers] have compared him to New York Giants all-pro wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks.  And, upon closer review, Jenkins’ long arms and great catch range make that a fair comparison.

In the 2nd round, the 49ers stayed with the theme of speed and added Pac-12 standout running back LaMichael James with the 61st overall pick.  When asked about LaMichael James’ ability to fit into the 49ers, there were a number of areas that Harbaugh felt his second round pick could make an impact.

“I’ve seen him play up close. I’ve seen all the things he can do and lost games to his team, large degree of his efforts,” said Harbaugh.

When he faced him as head coach at Stanford, Harbaugh described James as an overall “explosive” player and that the characteristics that stood out to him in James’ game – “change of direction, speed, playmaking ability, durability, number of carries, number of yards, number of touchdowns” – were all elements that make him a special player.

In reaction to the suggestion that the selection of James indicated an indictment of Frank Gore, Harbaugh insisted that, “he will come in to compete with solid football players … winning football players … it’s gonna get real real, real fast.”

Regarding both Jenkins’ and James’ opportunity to compete on the team, Harbaugh explained that “they definitely have great ability, and speed … a lot more to their game than just speed, both of those youngsters that we’ve added in this draft. They’ll get opportunity and they’ll have the license to go out and compete and find their role. Whether that’s a contributor, starter, how much of a contributor if they are a starter. That will unfold.”

He went on to compare James “favorably” to all-pro running back Ray Rice and confirmed that someday he could see James handling a similar type of workload as Rice in Baltimore.  Not only has Rice has averaged 240 carries and 1095 yards per year since he was a rookie in 2008, but he has also amassed an average of 63 receptions and 559 receiving yards per year as well.

For now, I’ll settle for James’ presence on the field providing a constant threat to beat the defense to the edge with fly sweeps, outside zone plays, or screens.  They are also getting a durable one-cut runner and a weapon in the passing game as both a primary and check down receiver.  Watch James’ snaps against in state rival, Oregon State University, to get a feel for his playmaking ability.

James should factor in as an explosive playmaker in more ways then one.

When addressing criticism that James would project to be nothing more then a third down back, Harbaugh said that he “doesn’t think that he’ll be limited to just a third down back. You have to take into consideration fourth down, too. This is somebody that has a chance to evolve into a punt returner, a kickoff returner …  He’s proven that he’s a multi-down back in our eyes.”

Finally, Trent Baalke offered his thoughts on poker and the 49ers backfield: “We’ve got a full house … that’s a good hand, right?”

Watch some more James highlights to let it sink in that the Niners just added one of the best college football players in recent years.

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49ers GM, Trent Baalke, talks in detail to the local media about QB Colin Kaepernick’s ability to grow at the next level.  Give it a watch, and if you are a fan of offensive football in general (let alone a 49er fan), the part where he talks about Kaepernick bringing a QB driven run game to the 49ers offense is quite exciting.  You can’t help but conjure up images of Michael Vick related to the strain that he puts on a defense because of the threat that he poses in the run game.

Baalke also mentions something interesting when he alludes to the fact that they may tailor some of their offensive attack to include Kaepernick early on.  “Who’s to say that we’re not going to have him in the pistol … having some variation of that working for him,” Baalke said.

(See also: Matt Bowen’s take from the National Football Post on the 49ers ability to run the read option with Kaepernick)

Another entertaining video from 49ers.com is the following preview of their ‘Coach ’em up’ series.  Linebackers coach Jim Leavitt, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, secondary coach Ed Donatell, and special teams coordinator Brad Seely are among those featured in this clip.  Between Donatell and Seely, the staff can draw from the experience of six (6) Super Bowl Championships.  Donatell earned three (3) during his time with the Denver Broncos and Seely also accumulated three (3) under New England Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick.

Geep Chryst’s synopsis of Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching career and potential with the 49ers hints toward what many 49er fans may be hoping – that he is able to recreate the success he has had at each of his previous two head coaching posts.

Chryst explains what he expects based on trends Harbaugh built at the University of San Diego and Stanford:

“I knew in no short order, when he took the University of San Diego head job, that it wasn’t going to be a typical bus stop to bus stop type trip for Jim.  And, sure enough, from the University of San Diego he got hired at Stanford, which for a lot of people was quite a dramatic leap, but for Jim I think he was doing the same thing that he was doing from day one at the University of San Diego, and he’s doing the same thing here [with the 49ers], that he did day one at Stanford.”

In 2004, Harbaugh was named head coach at the University of San Diego.  There, he promptly led the Toreros to records of 7-4, 11-1, 11-1.  His first season at Stanford (2007) brought a major upset victory over 41 point favored University of Southern California, initiating a surge in the changing of the guard in the Pacific-10 Conference.  After showing moderate improvement and overachieving in his first two seasons, finishing 4-8 (2007) and 5-7 (2008), the Cardinal made a dramatic improvement in 2009, going 8-5 and being narrowly defeated by Oklahoma University in the Sun Bowl.  The improvement continued into 2010 when Harbaugh and the Cardinal finished with a school record twelve (12) victories.  His final campaign included a strong performance in a win versus Virgina Tech in the Orange Bowl, notching the school’s first ever BCS bowl victory, and finishing the year ranked 4th in both the Coaches and AP rankings (Source).

Still jonesing for more 49er breakdown and analysis?

Enjoy the following video links to catch up with Harbaugh, Baalke, and new 49er coaching staff and roster additions:

– Jim Harbaugh is featured on NFL’s Total Access in 32 Teams in 32 Days-49ers.

– Trent Baalke breaks down the latest additions to the 49er roster in Aldon Smith, Kendall Hunter and Ronald Johnson

– 49ers.com ‘Coach ’em up’ series focus on Secondary Coach Ed Donatell and  Quarterbacks Coach Geep Chryst.

– Official 49ers press conferences with Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, and Special Teams Coordinator Brad Seely

– NFL Network’s feature on brothers Jim and John Harbaughs’ Thanksgiving matchup between the 49ers and Ravens.

Still want more?

– Check out 49ers.com’s list of news headlines here.

– Get The Bleacher Report’s stream of 49er headlines here

After making waves in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft by trading up to select University of Nevada quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers GM, Trent Baalke, and HC, Jim Harbaugh, looked to add players with “versatility” in the later rounds.

The 49ers bolstered their roster with Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter and University of Southern California WR Ronald Johnson.  Both players look to bring added value to the offense and in the kick return game, fitting directly into the category that Baalke and Harbaugh are looking for.

The first of the two picks came in the 4th round when the 49ers selected Hunter.  A promising replacement pick for free agent Bryan Westbrook, Hunter adds some much needed depth behind the aging but still productive (and recently, oft-injured) Frank Gore.  A Big-12 Conference standout, Hunter finished fifth in conference history with 4,181 rushing yards, earning more yards rushing than former OSU Cowboy and Detroit Lions Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders.

Baalke said the 49ers envision Hunter as a “four-down contributor,” who gives the team another option in the kick return game.

In the 6th round the 49ers picked up a solid WR in Johnson.  The WR and Kick Returner looks to be a great fit for the team and should need little time getting comfortable with the coaching staff.  49ers WR’s coach, John Morton, was Johnson’s collegiate coach at USC.  Johnson is a good football player who’s potential has yet to be reached.  He stays low in his breaks, runs precise routes, plays with enthusiasm and should push Josh Morgan and Tedd Ginn for significant playing time early, both offensively and on special teams.

Johnson’s best day receiving for the 2010 season came against Washington when he hauled in 6 passes for 109 yards.  One of his more spectacular plays though came in a game against Hawaii when he fielded a punt, broke a tackle and raced down the sideline on his way to a 3 TD performance on the day.