Insider Look: Jim Leavitt

San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach, Jim Leavitt, has lately been emerging as one of the more viable candidates for the ASU head coaching job. To gain more knowledge about Leavitt, Devils Digest invited 49ers Insider, Matt Maiocco, to talk about Leavitt's current tenure and give us his impressions of this Sun Devil head coaching prospect.

Devils Digest: This is just Jim Leavitt's first year with the San Francisco 49ers, but as someone who covers the team on a daily basis what have been your impressions thus far of Leavitt?

Matt Maiocco: "He's a very charismatic guy and a guy who is very comfortable in the limelight and running the program. He's a football coach that still has a player's mentality. If you asked what he would like to be, a player or a coach, I think he would strap on the pads and run out there now if he could.

"After he was fired from South Florida, he got a call from Jon Gruden, who also lived in Tampa, and he started getting up at 4 a.m. and go to Gruden's office and they would watch game film all day to get some understanding about the 2010 NFL draft. So he was there all day just looking at prospects and talking football day. After the draft was over, he would still go to Gruden's office and he would watch NFL game film, as Gruden got ready for his analyst duties on ESPN. So Leavitt loves to grind and watch some film, and likes studying football and watching football.

"He had some opportunities to coach college football, but he decided to come with Jim Harbaugh and coach the 49ers this year. He has been kind of under the radar here. I did interview him once during the lockout and you could tell that he was craving to coach again in college. So I knew that there was no doubt that is the opportunity presented itself to be a head coach again that he would be really interested in it. So it doesn't surprise me that he is interested in Arizona State."

DD: The team's practices are closed during the season, but obviously during training camp, and on Sundays, you got to see how Leavitt was interacting with his players. What have you witnessed in that regard?

MM: "He has a lot of interaction with his players because on game day he isn't up in the booth, he's on the sidelines. He's a very hands-on, energetic coach. He's a not a calm, professorial, glasses at the end of the nose kind of guy."

DD: Naturally having an All-Pro in your position group, in Patrick Willis, every linebackers coach can look impressive. Yet, what contributions do you feel Leavitt has made to this 49ers position group in his first year there?

MM: "Willis is Willis and I know that even you and I can coach him and he will still be great. But a guy that has really taken off this year is NaVorro Bowman. He was a 3rd round pick last year, and got on the field a little bit but really couldn't hold down the job as a nickel linebacker. The team let Takeo Spikes leave so they could get Bowman more on the field and he has been really good this year. He has been almost Patrick Willis-like. So if you are looking for a guy that has made a big jump and that has really developed since Leavitt got here, he's the guy."

DD: You talked about his firing from South Florida, that was over an alleged incident that he hit a player, and asked coaches and players to alter their recount of the incident. Is that something that the 49ers took in consideration when they hired Leavitt, and was it a big point of discussion ever since he got there?

MM: "Someone told me concerning that incident, that universities aren't in the business of giving out money to people who aren't deserving (following his dismissal Leavitt received a financial settlement of $2.75 million). So I think that proves that nothing improper took place. Leavitt stands by the fact that he didn't do anything wrong and that he has the paycheck to prove it."

DD: In your opinion, do you think Leavitt will remain on the 49ers staff with all the success he is enjoying there, or do you think it's a given that he will leave right now if offered to coach at ASU or some other college?

MM: "I don't know if I can answer that because I don't know what Arizona State and perhaps some other schools are prepared to offer him. But let's put it this way, it won't surprise me if he left. It would be a move that could come under a little scurrility because of what has allegedly happened at South Florida.

"But if a school has really done their homework on him and are completely satisfied that he did nothing wrong, you look at this guy and how he built up a program with zero resources to start…it's impressive. I don't think the 49ers want to lose him, but when they hired him I think they were prepared for the chance that they would eventually lose him to a college head coaching job."


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