Never a dull moment for Nolan at Senior Bowl

Mike Nolan can't slow down at the Senior Bowl, and he couldn't even if he wanted to. Nolan is in the center of the action in Mobile, and that means much more than just coaching the South squad along with the rest of his 49ers staff. While on the lookout for talented prospects who would be good fits for the 49ers organization, Nolan isn't just looking at and talking to college players, but also NFL personnel types who could impact the franchise in other ways off the field.

Nolan has been talking to a lot of people during breaks in his obligations to the South squad. With the support of owner John York, Nolan is looking to bring in a front-office type to complement him and personnel chief Scot McCloughan on the football side of the operation.

"There's a lot of dialogue going on," Nolan said from Alabama on Wednesday afternoon. "It's going in the right direction. I feel very good about it. But there has not been any decisions made."

Nolan and York interviewed Atlanta Falcons executive vice president and chief administrative officer Ray Anderson last week at the team's Santa Clara headquarters. The team also spoke with Seattle Seahawks vice president of football administration Mike Reinfeldt in the one-week window during which the 49ers had access to him after the regular season concluded.

Nolan said he has had conversations with several others in Mobile while he continues to define exactly what he's looking for and what the new position will entail within the organization. But it does appear the 49ers will be adding someone in their front office within the next few weeks.

"Not every bit (of his conversations) has been about bringing guys in," Nolan said. "You don't have to be specific about a position to get people in (for conversations). Part of the process is to see what we really need. I haven't been able to put a nail on it what I need. Some of these discussions have been to solidify just exactly what it is as well. Part of the process is for me to bring some clarity to what we're trying to be. At some point, it will be real specific."

Nolan also has crossed conversational paths with dozens of coaches, particularly with so much coaching turnover in the NFL this year.

"Certainly, as a head coach, a lot of guys come to you because they think you have a job to give," Nolan said. "There's a lot of buzz about guys trying to find jobs and stuff like that. When a guy (at the Senior Bowl) has a job, he's looking at the players. When a guy doesn't have a job, he's looking at head coaches (in attendance)."

Nolan is looking at so many people it's making his head spin, but he's also making sure to keep a trained eye on the action in front of him on the field.

Nolan has been impressed at the talent on hand through the first three days of practice, but he said the key is identifying the kind of players who could still be around when the 49ers are picking in the middle rounds of the April draft. Everybody here is a prospect, but there is a fine line of which Nolan and the 49ers might be getting a better inspection than those outside the white lines.

"A very large percentage of these guys will play in the NFL and will make a roster and contribute," Nolan said. "We've got some very good football players – some of the best (college) players – and I definitely think a lot of guys will be drafted. This is going to help us in our (draft) evaluations, help us minimize our mistakes and maximize our selection."

When asked if there were particular players who were standing out in his eyes, Nolan responded, "I've liked them all." But then the coach immediately steered his focus to a position in which the 49ers may have a great need come April.

Some draft evaluators have indicated this could be the deepest talent pool at linebacker in decades, and five of San Francisco's top six veteran linebackers could be headed for free agency in March. The Niners appear certain to add at least one linebacker through the draft, perhaps even with their top pick.

Nolan wouldn't identify who has enamored the 49ers staff or indicate at what positions the team is being influenced this week, but he did say, "There's several good players at a very deep linebacker position. There's some very good football players at the defensive line positions. Some of them will be best suited for the 3-4 defense," a scheme the 49ers still would like to use as their base defense in 2006 as long as it fits their personnel.

Though Nolan made a point to say the 49ers "certainly (aren't) looking for a quarterback," the team is known to like the makeup of Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle, who had a strong practice Wednesday and might be a talent the team could develop as backup depth for the future behind Alex Smith.

The 49ers, obviously, are in great need of a game-breaking receiver, but Nolan said he hasn't seen any speed-burners this week. "There's certainly some big targets here for the quarterbacks, though," he said.

"I'm looking for the best football players we can find," Nolan said. "I'm pretty excited about some of these guys. (Coaching at the Senior Bowl) does take some pressure off us. Without a doubt, this will put us one leg up in the evaluation process. Everything about being here gives you a little bit of an advantage in evaluating guys. We'll know a lot more about the guys at (February's NFL Combine) having had this time with them."

Time that, for Nolan, obviously is being well spent.


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