Undrafted free agent signings 2014: How Jim Harbaugh, 49ers "discovered" QB Kory Faulkner

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers are expected to sign undrafted quarterback Kory Faulkner. The story of how Jim Harbaugh found him is pretty cool.

The San Francisco 49ers reportedly signed as many as seven undrafted free agents on Saturday evening, and it should surprise nobody that some of these guys have some interesting stories. The 49ers signed Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner, USC defensive end/outside linebacker Morgan Breslin, Catawba College safety LJ McCray, Miami (Fl) tight end Asante Cleveland, New Mexico center Dillon Farrell, Michigan State offensive tackle Fou Fonoti.

One of the interesting stories belongs to QB Kory Faulkner. I mentioned yesterday how Faulkner worked out at the same Pro Day where Jim Harbaugh met Northern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The folks at SIUSalukis.com were able to provide a few more details on that.

Harbaugh was at Northwestern to scout Garoppolo, and spotted Faulkner, who was throwing alongside Garoppolo during the formal session. 

"Coach Harbaugh saw me throwing side-by-side next to Jimmy and liked what he saw," Faulkner explained. "He asked for some tape and really liked my tape."

Over Easter weekend, Harbaugh flew into St. Louis to meet one-on-one with Faulkner for a couple of hours. 

35 years ago, 49ers head coach Bill Walsh was at Clemson University to check out quarterback Steve Fuller. When Fuller needed receivers to throw to, Dwight Clark got a call to come out to the field. He looked good enough that the 49ers ended up spending a 10th round pick on him. This is obviously a much different situation, but I like reading stories about players discovered through somewhat unexpected circumstances.

In his post-draft press conference, Jim Harbaugh was asked about meeting up with Faulkner. He mentioned visiting with Faulkner after his trip to Ohio for a ceremony honoring his brother John at Miami (OH) University. Harbaugh was asked about what caught his eye about Faulkner:

Was he somebody that sort of caught your interest? You’ve always talked about the gist of a quarterback. Is he somebody that’s sort of awakened that in you?

“Yeah, really liked watching the tape. It was a fun process. [Quarterbacks coach] Geep Chryst and I were together on that and we must have watched 40 or 50 quarterbacks. And really enjoyed watching them all. Some fabulous moments from college football we got to see. But, thought we did a thorough job. And feel really good about Kory. Feel really good about him as a person and a player. We like him.”

What kind of offense did he run there?

“There was some spread. There was some underneath center. But, you’re going to like him. He’s got a good arm. He’s smart. Strong guy. Got a good boned guy. And tough.”

In the SIUSalukis.com article, Faulkner views this as an investment of time:

"I respect Coach Harbaugh greatly and built a great relationship with him," Faulkner said. "He was honest with me the whole time on what their plans were. They're investing in me."

Faulkner will arrive in town on Monday to join a quarterback depth chart that includes Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Kap is going nowhere, and Gabbert's guaranteed money likely means he is going nowhere as well. McBLT has experience in the system, but he's the primary competition for Faulkner.

Right now, I'd say Gabbert has to be the heavy, heavy favorite to claim the No. 2 spot. The real question then becomes, how comfortable are the 49ers with Gabbert in that role. If they are very comfortable, maybe they release McBLT and sign Faulkner to the practice squad. If they're not as comfortable, maybe they keep McBLT as that third QB on the 53-man roster. Ideally, Gabbert emerges as a strong No. 2 option, and the 49ers can stash a third quarterback on the practice squad. That would save them a roster spot, and given how deep this roster is looking with the addition of 12 draft picks, that could be huge.

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