What’s your general assessment of the draft and how the roster stands right now?
“Very enjoyable. The whole process, from the time we started scouting these youngsters through the combine, through the evaluation process and today, the last three days, draft day, the phone conversations. Talking to the youngsters, their parents, their family. You hear the excitement and roars in the background. These last three days were signature days for these families, life-changing moments.”
Do you talk to everyone of the guys you drafted, all 12?
“Of course, yeah.”
You’ve got 12 new guys to coach.
“Excited about that.”
What do you tell them? Probably not all 12 can make this team, right?
“There will be some others, too. Some college free agents that we’re working on.”
What do you tell them? Not everybody’s going to make it?
“First of all, your question, I don’t agree with it that all 12 can’t make the team. I reject that as any kind of fact. They all have the license. They all have the ability to do just that.”
Your first pick today, WR Bruce Ellington, it seems like a guy that has the potential to, as they say, stretch the field. Was that one of his more appealing qualities, his speed?
“One of them, one of the appealing qualities. He’s a heck of an athlete. Very productive football player. Very productive basketball player. Got a nice text from [Indiana University head basketball coach and brother-in-law of Harbaugh] Tom Crean, who knows our roster real well and all of our guys that were really exceptional basketball players in high school, and he thinks we’ve got about the best basketball team in the NFL.”
Did he recruit him?
“Yeah, yeah. His comment was that he thought South Carolina really missed having Ellington in the lineup, and suffered for it. So, he was a big fan of the choice, as we all were. But, that was just a little side note there. Another versatile player. Very, very good athlete. Look forward to exploring how many ways we can use him.”
It seems like he has some toughness to him, too. Likes to block in the running game and whatnot. Is that a nice thing to see given the division he’s going to have to play in?
“Absolutely. If you don’t have the ball then you become a blocker. If you’re not a ball carrier, therefore you are a blocker. He displays that, yes.”
You missed out on CB Dontae Johnson a few years back?
“Pennington School, New Jersey.”
And did that one sting?
“Yeah, that one left a bruise. But, we got him now and he was really excited. Another great moment talking to him and he remembered us at Stanford. Recruiting him and visiting. The time we visited together. Also [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman went out to the school and visited. So, that was quite a thrill to get to talk to him, make him a part of our team.”
Why would Greg Roman have gone out?
“That was his recruiting area, New Jersey. He was an area recruiter. Clayton White, who coached at Stanford also, another connection, coaches defensive backs at North Carolina State. [North Carolina State director of football operations] Billy Nayes, who you remember, also had really good things to say about Dontae.”
Speaking of your ex-coaches, what did Willie Taggart tell you about OLB Aaron Lynch?
“Had a long talk today. And it was, as you expect from Willie, told it exactly the way he saw it and believes it. And believes that this is a good young man. Needs direction. Needs a good structure around him where he’s got guys, men that he would look up to. That he would have a chance to emulate. Feels that he’ll thrive in that kind of environment. Said he was extremely good when Willie and his staff got to South Florida and the structure was in place, and practiced every day, and had very good things to say, and had some good tips on what he thought would be in the best interest of the 49ers, and the best interest of Aaron, as well. So, that was very honest, very insightful and thought that this was a youngster that we could reach. That would respond. That would listen. That we could get to. And it’s never simple as sometimes you make it out to be. It’s not simple. It’s not, not going to be easy. But, we look forward to the challenge. I look forward to the challenge. I look forward to the challenge of coaching, teaching, mentoring. And he is all about it from our conversation on the phone. Had a very nice talk with his mother, as well. And I think there’s a real chance to have a partnership there. Me on this end over here, and our coaching staff and our football players and team and from her. Aaron’s very close to his mother. You can tell they care about each other very much. He’s got a chance to be successful, we felt.”
He talked about when he came here that he felt like it really clicked meeting linebackers coach Jim Leavitt, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio—
“Me? Me too.”
He did mention you and general manager Trent Baalke. Did you feel that way? Like there was a mutual affinity there?
“Yes. What I liked most about him, and what gives you a chance, is honesty. Somebody tells you the truth. If you have that then you’ve got a great basis to work from, in my opinion. We’ve all made mistakes. That’s how we get smart, by learning from our mistakes. I believe he’s at the point where he truly has a desire to learn from prior mistakes, and he’s a very, very young man. He’s a young guy. So, he is in the process of learning those things. And we feel like we can work with this youngster, we can teach this youngster. We feel like he’s going to be a willing listener. Again, it’s not going to be easy. But, can’t wait to see him and get started on that process.”
How good of a day was it today for addressing what appeared to be two of your top draft needs, cornerback and wide receiver? Were you guys looking more heavily at those positions today?
“Yes. [ESPN Analyst] Bill Polian said it when I was doing an interview with ESPN today, ‘Let the board talk to you.’ That was a good thing to say. I think that was something that we did today. We also fielded calls in terms of trades and we also let some of the needs that we have on our team do some talking to us as well. So, all those things factored in.”
We didn’t talk to you yesterday after the WR Stevie Johnson trade. What do you like about him? And he stands out as having a good game against the Seahawks a couple years ago, over 100 yards, touchdown. Did that come up, how he performed against that defense?
“Just his pattern of success. A long pattern of success, that he’s had as an NFL receiver. The production that he’s had, and I got a very good feeling about him. Watched tape. Watched the last four years of him, all his targets, all the times the ball was thrown to him and I feel like this is a situation that could work out very well. Another good conversation with him. He’s going to come by tomorrow with his family. Looking forward to that. And from San Francisco, junior college in the Bay Area, this has a chance to be something. It’s neat. Hunters Point, Chabot Junior College, San Francisco 49ers. Some things were starting to align in the way we saw it and the way he saw it.”
Back to OLB Aaron Lynch. Is he the type of talent that could come in similar to what OLB Aldon Smith did his rookie year and just come in in certain pass rush situations, third down situations? Is that what you envision him starting out as?
“There’s a process for players that come in their rookie year. And to put expectations on, a timetable on, what those are, I choose not to do that. Excited to see all the players that we drafted, new 49ers that we have signed. And the process will begin immediately. The travel will take place tomorrow and hope all the planes and automobiles function properly. And physicals take place on Monday, as early asMonday, and this week we’ll be out on the practice field. They’ll be integrated into the football team. So, the process starts now.”
I’m obviously not familiar with him, so what are the strengths that you see in him, that stand out?
“Big, physical, strong, pass rush ability. All players in the draft are good. You try to find better. You try to find best. I’m sure that if you took a poll of all the press conferences that are going on post-draft, or during the draft, reports from the draft, locker rooms, etcetera, you’re going to hear similar things when it comes to attributes of the players. These are good football players, we’re happy to have them and we’re ready to start the process of them being NFL football players. It’s signature moments. These are life-changing moments for these players and their families. Definitely something that they’re going to remember until the day they die.”
Will all 12 be able to report on Monday?
“Well, the travel arrangements are being made right now, but I’d assume so. Assume that nobody has anything better to do than to be here.”
As far as legally? They can all–?
“Colleges and their semesters? I’m not for sure on that. We’ll get that answer to you. Yeah, that’s a factor and the second factor would be planes and automobiles all run smoothly. Say a prayer for those men and women flying those planes.”
Three of the guys are coming off ACL injuries. Putting them aside, you go back a year and look at, you drafted DE Tank Carradine and RB Marcus Lattimore and now they’re going to be able to get on the field. Does that almost feel like now they’re a part of this incoming class of guys that are going to be ready to play for you?
“Sure hope so, yeah. That’s the hope. I think if you talk to each one of those youngsters, [DT] Tank Carradine, [RB] Marcus Lattimore, [T] Luke Marquardt who had a foot injury, [DT] Quinton Dial who had a toe, that they are much better prepared now going into their second year, physically. I’d say emotionally too, mentally. They are doing everything for the second time now. Everything they’ve done, they’ve done before. And all signs point to the arrow up on all four of those youngsters.”
What do you like about your new center Marcus Martin? Were you familiar with him back in your days at Stanford?
“Not so much back when I was at Stanford. But he’s been there. Started for three years, gifted, a leader, smart football player and productive football player. He’s got some real gifts, athletically, that you hope a center had. To be able to torque the body and positions that they can get in athletically. He gets in some of those rare type of gifted, athletic positions that will be great to work with. So, he’s got a lot of tools to work with. [Offensive Line Coach] Mike Solari working with him, a veteran O-Line group surrounding him, that’s going to be very beneficial to him. I would say really that for all of our incoming, new guys, that they’re going to be surrounded by good, veteran players. Guys that they can look up to as teammates and as football players to learn from. And there’s a process of gaining their respect and vice versa. For Marcus and others at each of the positions, good situations.”
You look at a team like St. Louis and you see what they did on the defensive line, and maybe not them specifically, but do you see what other teams do in the draft and maybe does that change your line of thinking, knowing that you see these teams and maybe your direction becomes a little bit more reactionary?
“No. Really, four rounds today, it’s so fast. Five minutes between picks and we have a flurry of picks, and there’s a lot of activity going on with calls, trades, etcetera. You’re more focused on what we’re doing as opposed to what other teams are trying to get accomplished. But some of it we’ll study and see what it means, if it means something.”
When you guys drafted RB Carlos Hyde, do you reach out to RB Frank Gore to go over some of your thought process with him?
“No, we did not reach out to any of the current players on the team before drafting players.”
And just can you talk about what you’re expecting out of Carlos and how he fits into your rushing attack?
“Again, similar things that I’ve said about some of the other players. Very talented, very skilled player, very productive player. And, if you’re going through a process not unlike [C] Marcus Martin with an outstanding coach in [running backs coach] Tom Rathman, a veteran group of running backs, both the fullback and the running back position on our team. Guys that have played in this league, great guys to watch and learn from, look up to. Couldn’t be a better situation for him to be in that position. Frank Gore is the person that all the young guys talk about because he has such an affinity for young backs. Has the ability to teach and to mentor all the young backs that we’ve had here every single year. I’ll also say the same thing now about [RB] Kendall Hunter, [FB] Bruce [Miller], [RB] LaMichael [James]. There’s great chemistry in that room and a great situation for Carlos.”
Did you work out QB Kory Faulkner? Did you have any personal interaction with him? Throwing session, anything like that?
“I wasn’t able to throw with him. I had the finger deal (underwent recent finger surgery). But, was able to meet with him.”
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.”
You may not tell us this because I know Trent runs the draft room. You had so many picks, but was there a guy you were personally kind of fighting for and really glad you got when the name came out?
“Twelve of them. Twelve guys.”
Were there others, too?
“You can say that every year. Again, there are so many talented players that are coming out. Other teams have picks. Twelve players are going to play for us. That’s a lot. That’s great. We feel great about that. And a lot of them, 300 others are going to play against us, or so. That’s just the nature of the business. Those are the facts. But, there were a lot of guys in the draft that you’re just excited about as a football coach to watch compete. And this year was no different in that regard.”
You mentioned Ellington’s versatility. He did return work, mostly kickoffs. Would you view that as a potential role for him, or is that a place where he can compete for playing time?
“Well, like I said, I look forward to exploring all options to use him. As a contributor on our football team, you say special teams, that doesn’t necessarily mean as a returner. LaMichael does a great job of that and we’re really happy when he took the bit and really ran with that the last half of the season. But, sure we’re going to explore that.”
You mentioned LaMichael. Some of us have written that he hasn’t participated in what is a voluntary offseason program. Do you understand the reasons for that? Do you have any problems or issues with that?
“LaMichael is a new father. Baby LaMichael Jr. So, I understand that as a father, of course. So, look forward to when he comes back. But, yeah, understand that.”
With Faulkner, was that a private work out? Or was that a Pro Day when you met him?
“No, it wasn’t a pro day.”
Was it a private workout?
“No, it was just a visit.”
But he came here?
You flew there?
OK. But you didn’t work him out?
“No, hand was in a cast.”
Is his hand in a cast, too?
“No, mine. He had a finger injury. He did have a finger injury. He hurt his finger against North Dakota State.”
So, you traveled there just to talk to him?
What trip was that on? Was that on your trip going out to the Midwest, or?
“That was on the way back from Miami of Ohio when I went their. My brother John Harbaugh had his statue unveiled. So, I decided to stop and see him.”
That was the first time you met him?
“Yes, it was.”
Did you have any reaction when the Rams drafted DE Michael Sam?
“No, I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it. I heard some people talking about it. And I can picture it. I heard that he was very emotional and I’ll look forward to seeing that. But, it’s great that you had these moments where the cameras can capture what’s going on in a living room, or a draft party, or wherever families are assembled because I like seeing it. I hear it when I’m on the phone and there’s no more excitement that I could possibly get than being the person that delivers that news. It’s an unbelievable feeling. And it’s like I don’t even need the camera because I can hear it and hear it in the voices. And hear the emotion. But, it’s fantastic that that’s captured on video and that that everybody gets an insight to that because I feel very lucky to be a part of this process.”
That didn’t happen when you were drafted? There was no camera on you when you were drafted?
“In my house?”
Do you wish there were? Do you wish there were video of that moment for you? That ought to have been a big moment for you?
“It was. And again, that memory is so etched that for me being there, you know how you felt. You know what position you were sitting in. I remember the voice on the other end. The order of the people you talked to and what was said. It’s etched in there and it’s kind of just for you, too. That’s a pretty special thing, too. Just to have that moment.”
Did you have the chicken pocks when you were drafted?
That didn’t affect your joy or anything?
“Anybody else want to talk about who we drafted?”
I’d like to know ILB Chris Borland.
“Chris Borland, football player. Very productive football player. Very, very excited about Chris. Some of the plays that he makes, the instincts that he has. The way he sees the game, the way he studies the game. You know he studies it because he’s already moving in directions that a person can only be moving that quickly because they had a tip, or they had a study, a film or something that the coaches had given them. And that really shows up in the tape. Fifteen forced fumbles, helmets knocked loose. He’s got a way. He’s got great hands. The way he tackles, 250 pounds. To me, my visual of it is like a bowling ball hitting pins. He’s got that kind of strike.”
Is FB Trey Millard a redshirt guy?
“Most likely he is coming off the ACL. Redshirt, what term is that? PUP for sure.”
Meaning we can’t expect him to get on the field in 2014.
“I wouldn’t say that. So, I’m glad I asked you to clarify that. ACL surgery was in November. And there’s a possibility that he plays next year.”
And what position is he?
“We’re going to look at him as a fullback.”
Can he play h-back as well?
“Fullback, yeah. H-back, yes.”
TE Delanie Walker type of role where he’s moving around?
“Good speed, yeah, 4.65, 254-pounder, 6’2” and some change. Another youngster that we recruited at Stanford, who visited us from Columbia, Missouri. I can’t remember the high school, but he was from Columbia, Missouri.”
Do you see WR Stevie Johnson competing for a starting receiver’s job, or do you see him as a slot guy?
“The competition will bare that out. [WR] Michael Crabtree and [WR] Anquan Boldin, that’s a tall order for anybody, anybody. So, definitely competing for the third spot initially and right off the bat with [WR] Quinton Patton with [WR] Brandon Lloyd, with [WR] Jonathan Baldwin, [WR] Chuck Jacobs. There’s quite a line there, [WR] David Reed. There are some really talented receivers. So, we’re excited about that competition, but initially he’ll be competing as the three.”