49ers training camp: Six camp sleepers

They come from NFL Europe and small colleges, from the shadows of the outer edges of other NFL rosters, even from backgrounds that don't include college football. These are six unheralded players who could catch everybody by surprise this summer at 49ers training camp during the open competition for roster berths behind the team's front-line performers.

SCOTT SCHARFF: The 49ers need defensive ends who are suited to their 3-4 system and also can provide some pass rush. At 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Scharff has the size to play the run, and he showed some pass rush skills during the spring in NFL Europe, ranking second in the league with six sacks. He also had 19 tackles and has shown some nice development after spending the entire 2005 season on San Francisco's practice squad. The undrafted free agent from Stanford has a legitimate shot to make the step up to the 53-man squad as the 49ers look to replace last year's third end, Travis Hall.

ONYE IBEKWE: This guy never played football in college, competing in basketball at Long Beach State instead. But at an athletic 6-foot-8 and 254 pounds, he displayed some raw skills during the spring, and the 49ers plan on making the tight end position an integral part of their offense under new coordinator Norv Turner. Ibekwe could become a project that's worth pursuing. "You take him to a combine and he shows really well, but he hasn't played football since high school, so everybody is curious what kind of football player he is," coach Mike Nolan said. "We'll give him a shot. He's a great developmental project."

DELANIE WALKER: Is he a wide receiver? A fullback? A tight end? An H-back? A combination of all the above? Walker's sleeper potential is that he's a small-school project that the 49ers wanted to convert from receiver to a fullback type when they drafted him in the sixth round, but he displayed legitimate run-after-the-catch skills during the spring and the Niners have switched him to tight end to better use his receiving skills. Walker has an excellent chance to make the roster, and he's an intriguing prospect who could end up playing several roles on the team. But this tweener will have to find his niche quickly.

ANDRE TORREY: Claimed off waivers from the Houston Texans late this spring, the second-year veteran made plays in NFL Europe earlier this spring and will get a look at linebacker, where the 49ers could use some help. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound prospect originally signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent last year. He spent time on the Texans' practice squad after the Patriots released him, then recorded 55 tackles with two sacks and two forced fumbles with the Berlin Thunder in Europe. The Niners are having a casting call this summer for active 3-4 linebackers who can make those kind of plays from the edge.

SHAUN HILL: After signing this four-year veteran who has yet to take anything beyond a kneel-down snap in the NFL, coach Mike Nolan said Hill will challenge either to be the backup or third-stringer behind Alex Smith. Expect that to mean the latter, where Hill will get a real look in a three-way battle that includes Jesse Palmer and Cody Pickett for the No. 3 role. He's got an NFL makeup and experience learning in the league, but he's on the outside looking in as camp begins.

ZAK KEASEY: The unheralded fullback ostensibly doesn't have much of a shot in a crowded backfield, but Nolan lauded his performance in the offseason. Keasey (6-foot, 240) came into the NFL as a linebacker, where he appeared in one game last year with the Washington Redskins. He's a versatile who could stick because of his ability on special teams.


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