Under the watchful eye of quarterbacks coach Greg Olson on Wednesday, there was a new face taking snaps behind center and handing off to running backs after the 49ers' morning practice.

Surprise, surprise: It was Cedrick Wilson.

Wilson, San Francisco's sixth-round draft pick this year, is the Niners' fourth receiver. But not this week. On Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, Wilson will become the team's third quarterback. To clear a roster spot after center Jeremy Newberry was injured Monday, the Niners waived Ricky Ray, who had been their emergency quarterback the past two weeks. The team then elevated lineman Milford Stephenson from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, and opted to make Wilson - an All-American quarterback in high school who was inactive in Monday's win at New York - its third quarterback.

"I'm kind of excited," said Wilson, who was listed as the best prep quarterback in Tennessee after throwing 41 touchdown passes and rushing for 10 more as a senior in 1996. "I don't throw much here, but I was playing with the guys on the side, and that's basically how I got there."

Wilson accepted a scholarship to Tennessee thinking he'd play quarterback. But when he found Peyton Manning and Tee Martin ahead of him on the depth chart, "I figured the best way to get on the field was at receiver, so I switched myself to receiver," Wilson said.

He earned his way onto the Niners roster at that position, but agreed to help out the team. By using Wilson as the emergency quarterback, it enables the 49ers to fill that position without paying someone to specifically serve in that capacity. Wilson, however, will not be eligible to play receiver or any other position besides quarterback against the Panthers.

 "It's not a permanent thing," said coach Steve Mariucci, who has made several changes at the No. 3 quarterback slot since the beginning of September due to the team's serious salary-cap constraints. "It went from Rick Mirer, the second pick in the (1993) draft and a former starter in the league, to Kevin Daft, a second-year player, to Ricky Ray (a rookie from Sacramento State), to a high school All-American," Mariucci said. "What's next?"

What's next is Wilson - who stands just 5-foot-10 - will get a crash course in the elementaries of playing quarterback the next few days. "We're going to have to spend some time with him before practice and after practice,'' Olson said. "He's familiar with the terminology. It's hard to get him reps. But because he's out there running routes, he's gotten familiar with the passing game. We've got to get him familiar with the running game.''

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