OTA notebook: Tukuafu another two-way player?

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh has gained a reputation for using players in non-traditional roles, and he's doing it again with Will Tukuafu, a defensive tackle who has been spending time at fullback during San Francisco's organized team activity practice sessions.

On Tuesday, Tukuafu caught a pass while coming out of the backfield, and the 6-foot-4, 293-pound Tukuafu has been getting quite a bit of practice time at fullback behind Bruce Miller.

Harbaugh is impressed by what he's seen of Tukuafu on offense during practice.

"Yeah, Will's doing a great job athletically, picking up the offense and the defense, both," Harbaugh said. "And I think the best will come when he puts the pads on. I think that's when it'll get really exciting and fun. A 280-plus guy playing fullback is going to bode well for us."

Tukuafu played in four games in 2011 as a defensive lineman, but his season ended when he injured his wrist during kickoff return.

Harbaugh said Tukuafu will continue practicing on both offense and defense, and it appears he is another player Harbaugh might use on both offense and defense.

Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga was used as an extra blocker last season on 42 offensive snaps, and safety Colin Jones played one play as a wide receiver, according to CSN Bay Area.

In the NFC playoffs earlier this year, defensive linemen Justin Smith and Demarcus Dobbs played a few plays on offense.

The team's experimentation with putting defenders on offense also was on display when cornerback Cory Nelms was tried at wide receiver.

"Well, you can gain knowledge by playing the opposite side of the ball," Harbaugh said. "But the greater share of why we're doing that ... is to utilize a guy's talent on the other side of the ball. Possibly find a player that's a three-way player to play defense, offense and special teams. That's the 98 percent of it."

Harbaugh sees the kind of athleticism in Tutuafu that could enable him to make that transition, too.

"Yes, yes. And there are a few others too, but he's doing a very nice job," he said. "And just looking at him, evaluating him, seeing what his athletic skill set is. Plus, very physical, very smart player. We felt like that's something he would excel at."

Tutuafu was more concerned about making the team than commenting about a possible new position.

"See if I make the team first," he said. "Got to graduate first."

He was not the only player who impressed Harbaugh in OTAs this week.

"There are a lot of guys that are doing very well," Harbaugh said said. "And a lot of guys are out here too. We were pretty much at full force, minus one or two guys. So, it was outstanding. That attendance has been that way all offseason for us. And we've talked about it before, but that's an exciting thing for us.

"Yeah, [tight end] Vernon Davis is having an outstanding offseason, everyday just getting better at route running. Every facet of the tight end position he's really excelling at right now. And a lot has been talked about a guy like [quarterback] Alex Smith not having the same coordinator and what's that going to be like two years in a row. But that also goes true for Vernon Davis, [wide receiver] Michael Crabtree, and many other offensive players. Defensively, yeah several guys are excelling on that side of the ball, and I think you know all those names.

"[Cornerback] Perrish Cox is having a real good offseason, real good addition for us. And quite a few others, we could stand here and talk for a while about that. But, really pleased with the way our guys are working right now."

Harbaugh said Cox could be a "two-phase player."

"I think he'll contribute not only in the special teams, but he'll have a shot in our secondary," Harbaugh said. "And it's a spot yet to be determined, in terms of where he'll contribute as the nickel corner. But he has the ability to do both of those, but that's been good. [Cornerback] T [Tarell] Brown's having a real outstanding camp. I think our whole secondary is really performing very well. We've had a lot of passing work, a lot of throwing work has been the emphasis."


The team has promoted Ethan Waugh to Senior Personnel Assistant. The Niners also have named Scott Brown and Chip Flanagan Regional Scouts.

National Scout Matt Malaspina will now be responsible for the Southeast region, in addition to his existing duties crosschecking prospects throughout the country. Regional Scout Justin Chabot will now scout the Midwest.

In his new role, Waugh will be based in Santa Clara, where he will work with all aspects of player personnel. After beginning his career with the 49ers in 2004 as the team's Personnel Assistant, he was later promoted to Area Scout in 2008. Since that time, Waugh had been responsible for scouting the Midwest region.

Brown, who will scout the Midlands region, joins the 49ers after spending the 2011 season as the defensive line coach at Arizona State. Prior to joining the Sun Devils, Brown served as the defensive line coach at Colorado State from 2008-10.

Brown joined the Rams staff from Duke University, where he had spent the previous 12 seasons (1996-2007) coaching the defensive line and special teams. Prior to his tenure at Duke, Brown coached four seasons on the staff at Minnesota, where he coached the defensive line (1992-94) and linebackers (1995). He also served nine years at Texas Christian University (1983-91) and three at Southwest Texas State (1980-82), coaching defensive line all 12 seasons.

Flanagan, who will scout the Northeast region, joins the 49ers as the team's Northeast Area Scout after spending the previous eight seasons with the Washington Redskins.

Flanagan served as an area scout for the Redskins from 2007-11, where he was responsible for evaluating college prospects at schools located in the Southwest region (2007-10) and Southeast region (2011).

Prior to working as an area scout, Flanagan served as a college scouting assistant with the Redskins for two seasons (2005 and 2006). He originally entered the NFL in 2004 as an intern in the Redskins' personnel department.

LINEBACKER CAM JOHNSON DID NOT PARTICIPATE in practice Tuesday, and Harbaugh said he is having medical procedure performed.

"It's nothing major. And kind of a clean out," Harbaugh said. "So he'll be back for training camp 100 percent, full go. We felt that it was better to do it now. And I think our doctors were right to do it. So, I think this will benefit Cam and he'll be able to put his best foot forward come training camp."

Johnson was drafted by the 49ers in the seventh round, the last of the team's seven draft picks. His role as a possible contributor as an edge rusher and on special teams became more pivotal when fifth-round draft pick Darius Fleming – a player with similar skills and potential – tore a knee ligament in the team's rookie minicamp in May.

CORNERBACK TARELL BROWN WANTS TO MAKE a big splash in his second year as a starter. Brown, who intercepted four passes last year, wants to lead the league in picks in 2012 and go to the Pro Bowl.

Brown developed into a key member of San Francisco's imposing defense last season, when he also contributed 46 tackles and had 15 passes defensed, second on the team only to Pro Bowler Carlos Rogers.

"It's something that has always been in the back of my head and I want to make it a reality," Brown said of his 2012 goals. "Any time you have some success you want to be better every year."

If Brown doesn't make the Pro Bowl, he will donate a game check to his foundation which helps single mothers.

RUNNING BACK BRANDON JACOBS PLANS ON cutting about 10 pounds to get to 255. As a pro, Jacobs has played his entire seven-year career at around 265 pounds.

"I think I could move faster," Jacobs said. "I could hit the hole harder and I could deliver a little bit more of a punch if I'm lighter, versus being heavy and letting the defenders getting up on me."

The Giants, his former team, didn't allow Jacobs to squat any weight, fearing knee problems. The 49ers emphasize squats as a central part of their offseason training.

"I've been training here probably 10 times harder than I've ever trained," Jacobs said. "I'm trying to get my body back to how it used to be and strengthen my legs. That was a weak point in me the last couple years, my legs weren't as strong."

Jacobs still looks like a big load whenever he carries the ball and breaks through the line during the team's OTA sessions.

QUARTERBACK ALEX SMITH LAUNCHED WHAT EVERYONE hopes will be the final salvo of words between he and Carolina linebacker Jon Beason.

When asked about the attention his comments received about Cam Newton throwing for a lot of yards but not winning, Smith said:

"If there's a good thing from all the drama that came of it, hopefully people didn't catch onto the fact that we let out a team secret. Around here we don't really care about individual stats. That's the one good thing."

And that is that.

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