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Youngsters at safety look to show at OTAs that they deserve bigger roles

The 49ers decided to go younger at safety. It opens the door for a lot of opportunities.

The San Francisco 49ers kick off their organized team practice activities (OTAs) on May 21st. Those will run through June 7th, followed by mandatory minicamp June 12th through 14th. This is as important a period as any in the offseason. Players have been going through classroom work, and had individual work on the field. OTAs and minicamp are when teams really get to implement the playbook and get players ready for training camp.

This also means players can take a step forward in competitions for either a starting job or simply a chance to make the roster. We’re less than a week away from the start of OTAs, so I thought now is a good time to preview each position heading into the on-field workouts.

Today, we move on to the safeties.

Depth chart

FS: Adrian Colbert, Tyvis Powell, Corey Griffin, Terrell Williams
SS: Jaquiski Tartt, Chanceller James, Don Jones, Marcell Harris

The 49ers drafted Marcell Harris to compete at strong safety, but the bigger moves involved veterans. The team has not yet re-signed Eric Reid, and they are moving Jimmie Ward back to cornerback for the time being. John Lynch has not ruled out Reid’s return, but barring injuries, it seems unlikely the 49ers re-sign him. Ward is likely to play a jack-of-all-trades role between cornerback and safety, but for OTAs, he is resuming some of his previous duties.

What OTAs mean for the position

Colbert and Tartt are the two starters at this point, so there will be the matter of making sure they’re on the same page heading into training camp. But I am most fascinated by Chanceller James. The UDFA seemed to have a decent chance at earning a roster spot, but a torn ACL in mid-August ended his season before it began. I don’t know right now what his physical status is for OTAs, but if he is back on the field, he has a chance to rebuild some momentum heading back into training camp.

Former free safety Jimmie Ward is expected to focus on cornerback in OTAs and minicamp. He could still end up getting safety work, but it sounds like we will not see him at safety for the next month.