The San Francisco 49ers have gone from Jason Tarver and Hardy Nickerson to Johnny Holland. Now this transition, especially from two guys (Tarver was outside linebackers and Nickerson was inside) may be a bit awkward to a couple of the veterans.
But for one rookie, this is going to be the standard. None other than Reuben Foster —he’s (hopefully) not going to have to worry about this two-coach, one-coach shuffle. He’s already got the eye of his coach too. Despite not being able to participate in contact drills and be a full part of the other team activities on the field, Foster is certainly impressing people off it with his football I.Q. and work effort.
He still has a long way to go before making a name for himself in the NFL, but it’s all praise for him from Holland. The 49ers linebackers coach met with the media last week to discuss the rookie and offered some encouraging words for fans:
Has Malcom Smith’s knowledge of Robert Saleh’s [defense] proven to be—
Yeah, no doubt, Malcom has been a great addition for us. He’s knowledgeable with the defense, his athletic ability and skillset fit what we’re looking for. He can run, he’s athletic and he can match up with receivers running down the field, so he’s a great pickup for us.
What has Reuben Foster been like given the front office interest in him. Were you a part of that whole crew that wanted him drafted?
Oh no doubt, that’s a dream come true for a linebacker coach. I think in the last 10 years he’s been one of the best inside linebackers that came out of college football. To have him in the building and coach a guy like that is valuable for our team for the long term of the organization to get a guy that I felt like was a top-end of the draft guy and we got him at the bottom-end and we’re just glad we got him.
Last year’s team there were a lot of unteachable moments on defense. Do you bring up last years film at all?
No, we’re all about this scheme here. We know how hard it is not to play good defense and I’ve been on that end before. I’m sure the guys gave it everything they got. We can’t do anything about last year and we feel like the scheme we got this year is valuable for the guys we have here now.
How much is Reuben missing the fact he can’t participate in the full team stuff?
The reps on the field are hard to make up. Reuben is very attentive in the meeting room and we meet up with him afterwards. He’s on the field every snap doing whatever he can. It’s just unfortunate that he can’t have any contact right now. But we’re not going to rush him, we’re going to make sure he’s healthy and he should hit the ground running and not miss a beat.
You mentioned the last 10 years of college football, that’s pretty high praise. What are the qualities that make him so special?
Well Reuben has a natural ability to find the ball and able to strike guys and hit. He’s a physical player, an athletic player that can play sideline to sideline and he has a very good understanding of the game. It’s hard to find a overall linebacker that can run, strike, hit, and have overall game. He showed for two years, he’s a topnotch player and we’re so excited to have him.
He measured in at 229 at the combine, is that ok with you or do you want him to be a little heavier?
If he can hit like he hit in college, he can weigh whatever he weighed in college. We’re not too concerned about his weight. He probably went a little while without lifting weights and lost some weight. Normally, looked like he played at 235 and we don’t need our linebackers as super big linebackers. We want them to run, and hit and play in space. Our strength coaches and trainers and nutritionists—they are on top of everything. So he should be at the right weight when he’s ready to go.
Is he able to do all the upper body and conditioning work?
I don’t know for sure yet what his schedule is for his lifting. He feels like he can do everything on the field, but the doctors won’t allow him to right now. We just want him to be patient and make sure everything to heal up. He’s on schedule it looks like, working hard in the meeting room, out at practice, doing drill work with no problem.
Ahmad Brooks looks like he’s been a little bit leaner and faster tell us some of the things—
I’m not surprised about Ahmad Brooks, but for a guy that’s his age and the years that he has in the league that he’s moving around really good. As far as an outside linebacker and dropping into space, was one of the concerns. It’s no concern he can drop in space and he’ll be a good fit for our defense.
Who does he fall under? Which coach?
He falls under the D-Line coach, that’s the LEO, which is not in my category.