Northwest connections

Dennis Erickson has inside knowledge of football talent in the Great Northwest. He began building his reputation as a big-time coach at Washington State, then later enhanced it during a recent tenure at Oregon State. But Erickson's vast connections to the football network of that region aren't the reason the Niners selected players from Washington, Oregon and Oregon State on the second day of the draft, though it might have had some factor in the team's decision to make those picks.

After all, before the Niners recruited them in the draft, Erickson recruited linebacker Richard Seigler, safety Keith Lewis and quarterback Cody Pickett to play for him at Oregon State. Only Seigler ultimately followed Erickson there, but now all three are with him in San Francisco after the Niners took Seigler in the fourth round, Oregon's Lewis in the sixth round and Washington's Pickett in the seventh round.

"It's nice to know players," said Erickson, who also spent four seasons as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks before taking the Oregon State job in 1999.

"You can say what you want, but if you have a player that you know, and you know what kind of competitor that he is and you know how he plays the game and how important the game is to him, it makes a difference," Erickson continued. "That's why we go out and interview players. That's to try and get to know that as much as we can in a short period of time. But when they've played for you or you've played against them over a period of time and you know a little bit about them, it helps in making decisions to know what they're about."

Though he didn't join Erickson at Oregon State, instead becoming a three-year starter for the Beavers' heated cross-state rival, Lewis knows what his new coach is all about.

"When Oregon plays Oregon State, it's almost like a war," Lewis said. "So I'm somewhat familiar with the way he coaches. He definitely carries a chip on his shoulder, and I do as well. So I think we are going to be a perfect fit for each other."

Though both Erickson and Niners general manager Terry Donahue downplayed the idea that Erickson put his mark on this draft, the second-year coach said, "I was involved quite a bit more. I was involved with the scouts, I listened to their opinions. I was involved with Terry, and obviously Terry is in charge of the draft, but I was very much involved in it. I got an opportunity to voice an opinion and sit down."

Donahue said it wasn't much more than a coincidence that three of San Francisco's 10 draft prospects were plucked from Erickson's former stomping grounds.

"We got those guys, but it wasn't because of that," Donahue said. "The participation of Dennis was the same as it was last year. I really believe that we have a lot of synergy on our draft. There's a lot of involvement by a number of people. It certainly isn't Dennis and I just picking players. It's a team thing with our draft. Everybody's participating. Any correlation with the three players we selected from the Northwest ... Those players were just the best available players when we were picking."


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