When Trent Baalke pulled the trigger on Cornellius Carradine, AKA "Tank", in the second round last spring, he believed he was getting first-round value and a potential starter down the road. Carradine fell in the draft after tearing his right ACL Nov. 24 in Florida State's 37-26 loss to Florida.
Nearly 11 months later, Carradine's knee is at full strength and he's practicing with his new team for the first time.
"This is like their first day in football. And I'm sure that there's some gravel in the gut there, some anticipation, excitement, nerves, all those things," Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday about Carradine and fellow rookie lineman Quinton Dial.
Dial, a fifth-round pick, played a rotational role at Alabama, but has the skill set the team is looking for in a young, run-stuffing nose tackle. He missed the offseason program after undergoing toe surgery at the conclusion of the Tide's BCS Championship run.
"I played a similar scheme in college. So it's just all about getting back out there and getting back in the swing of things," said Dial.
Jerod-Eddie was forced into action at nose tackle with Dorsey out, while Dobbs replaced McDonald after sustaining a biceps injury Week 5 against Houston. The drop-off from the starters was noticeable, particularly when defending the run. Dorsey practiced Friday and remains questionable for Sunday's game against the Titans.
Carradine and Dial put on their pads this week with a steep learning curve ahead. Unlike other rookies Eric Reid and Corey Lemonier, their injuries didn't afford them the luxury of participating in the team's offseason program. While they were practicing and learning the speed of the game, Carradine and Dial were still rehabbing.
But Tank doesn't feel ill prepared. His knee didn't prevent him from studying his assignments and watching tape in the meeting rooms.
"I feel like if you can learn things mentally, and know things mentally, physically it won't be a problem," Carradine said.
"I was able to learn the plays and learn the technique things like that. Now I apply it by doing it physically."
Carradine and Dial have been attached at the hip since getting drafted. Both players have been rehabbing their respective injuries rigorously in order to get themselves in playing shape as soon as possible without being able to play in the preseason.
"That will come as time goes. I'll be in pretty good shape in a couple weeks," Dial said.
The 49ers made a roster move Thursday, releasing wideout Chris Harper leaving a roster spot open. Harbaugh says the team has already decided who will take the open roster spot, but wouldn't divulge until the move is officially made Saturday.
It's likely nose tackle Mike Purcell will be elevated from the practice squad given his participation in training camp and the preseason. Purcell was on the field for 70 snaps in four preseason games and held his own against reserve offensive linemen.
There's a slim chance the team decides to go with Dial. He indicated he feels like he's in pretty good shape after participating in just a few practices and his extensive rehab. The team hasn't told him which direction its going to go.
Dial and Carradine must be placed on the 53-man roster by Nov. 5 or be placed on injured reserve, where they wouldn't be eligible to play this season. The 21-day window that started this week would end in the middle of the team's bye week following the trip to London to place the Jaguars.
No matter the plan, the team's defensive captain has been impressed by the two rookie linemen.
"It was amazing to see," Patrick Willis said. "You can tell they've been working hard."
"Those are the guys that they're going to have to come in and play now and better make a difference for us…they're good kids and they work hard. So we're there to help them and implement them into the defense."
*Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used in this report*
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