The draft wrap: Covering the 49ers from A-Z

Tidbits, trivia and other draft morsels as we cover the 49ers' six-player draft Class of 2008 from top to bottom while running down every letter of the alphabet.

A is for Atlantic Coast Conference: Which is a league that produced top pick Kentwan Balmer from North Carolina and sixth-rounder Josh Morgan from Virginia Tech. The ACC suddenly is becoming a hotbed of talent for the 49ers, who nabbed two starters - tight end Vernon Davis (Maryland) and linebacker Manny Lawson (North Carolina State) - and productive reserve cornerback Marcus Hudson from that league in the draft two years ago.

B is for Balmer: As in Kentwan Balmer, of course, the first-round selection who highlights San Francisco's Draft Class of 2008 and is the rookie most likely - and perhaps most counted upon - to make an impact on the team this season.

C is for California JC Player of the Year: Which is an honor bestowed upon seventh-round pick Larry Grant after his standout sophomore season at City College of San Francisco in 2005, when he also was named NJCAA National Defensive Player of the Year following a season during which he recorded 85 tackles, four sacks, nine stops for losses, three forced fumbles, six interceptions and six blocked punts. Now, that was one busy defender.

D is for Drought: Which is something the 49ers had experienced lately in drafting players from the University of Oklahoma before selecting defensive back Reggie Smith in the third round this year. Before grabbing Smith, the 49ers hadn't drafted a player from Oklahoma since 1992, when they selected nose tackle Corey Mayfield in the 10th round.

E is for Edmond: As in Edmond, Oklahoma, the suburb of Oklahoma City where Smith was born and raised and lettered four times in football at Santa Fe High School as a defensive back, running back and wide receiver.

F is for Fifth-Round Pick: As in the fifth-rounder the 49ers didn't have this year, the one that got stolen from San Francisco in March when the NFL determined the 49ers must relinquish that selection because they violated league tampering rules. That's no inconsequential loss. In the past five years alone, the 49ers have found contributing talents such as Arnaz Battle, Andy Lee, Keith Lewis, Ronnie Fields, Billy Bajema, Parys Haralson, Delanie Walker, Marcus Hudson and Melvin Oliver in the fifth round or lower in the draft. It's reasonable to assume they would have plucked another player that could have helped at that spot this year. In this case, F also stands for Fleeced.

G is for Guard: Which is a position the 49ers were intent on fortifying over draft weekend, a mission they pretty well accomplished by grabbing a potential starting candidate in Chilo Rachal in the second round, and then in the fourth round taking Cody Wallace, a center by trade who also will be groomed to play both interior guard positions.

H is for Honor Roll: As in Honor Roll Student, a distinction that belongs to Wallace, who was a second-team Academic All-American and Academic All-Big Twelve first-team selection as a senior at Texas A&M, the latter honor of which also was bestowed upon him as a junior.

I is for Interceptions: As in eight career interceptions in three seasons at Oklahoma for Reggie Smith, who had three each during the past two seasons. Smith returned those eight picks for 156 yards, a 19.5 average, and one touchdown. The other defender the 49ers selected in this draft, Larry Grant, recorded two interceptions at Ohio State, returning one 49 yards. He also had six interceptions during his sophomore season in junior college.

J is for Juniors: As in juniors Chilo Rachal and Reggie Smith, who both came out as underclassmen, making 33 percent of San Francisco's draft class players who have just three seasons of college experience. Typically, the 49ers like to draft mature and polished prospects, the kind that usually have had four or five years of the college experience. But they obviously felt Rachal and Smith - two of their first three selections - were qualified exceptions. Smith, 21, and Rachal, who turned 22 last month, will be two of the youngest players on the team.

K is for Knockdowns: Which is the kind of pulverizing blocking style that Chilo Rachal and Cody Wallace know quite well. Rachal recorded 77 knockdown blocks during the past season at USC, including nine times when he flattened defenders on a play that resulted in a touchdown for the Trojans. He had 78 knockdown blocks that resulted in six USC touchdowns as a sophomore. Wallace, meanwhile, was credited with 131 knockdown blocks resulting in 13 touchdowns for Texas A&M as a senior and 121 knockdown blocks as a junior.

L is for linebacker: Which was a position of high need for the 49ers entering the draft and an area where they would have liked to have found a prospect on both the inside and outside. The 49ers scored big-time in the draft at linebacker last year with Patrick Willis, and while the kind of things Willis did won't be expected of Larry Grant by any means, the 49ers got a versatile player who may be able to add depth at the position. Grant joins four other linebackers drafted by the 49ers in the past two years - Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson in 2004 and Willis and Jay Moore last year.

M is for Morgan: As in sixth-rounder Josh Morgan, one of the most prolific receivers ever to play at Virginia Tech. Despite playing on a team that had three - yes, three - receivers selected this year on draft weekend, Morgan finished his career at Virginia Tech second in school history with 122 receptions and fourth all-time in both receiving yards (1,817) and touchdown receptions (16).

N is for North Carolina: Which is the ACC school that now has produced three first-round draft picks for the 49ers - Kentwan Balmer this year, fullback Ken Willard in 1965 and offensive tackle Harris Barton in 1987. To say the least, the first two players turned out pretty well for the 49ers - Willard was named to four Pro Bowls and Barton twice was named first-team All-Pro - so the new kid from NC has something of a standard to uphold.

O is for Offensive Line: Which is a unit to which the 49ers continue to give heavy attention in the draft, selecting guard Chilo Rachal and center Cody Wallace with two of their first four selections. Since the Scot McCloughan/Mike Nolan tandem took control of the operation in 2005, the Niners have drafted six offensive linemen - three of whom have become either regular starters or semi-regular starters. Rachal is expected to quickly claim that kind of status.

P is for Passes Defensed: As in the 22 pass break-ups Reggie Smith recorded during his three seasons playing for the Sooners - 11 last season as a junior - which ranks 10th all-time in Oklahoma history.

Q is for Quotable: Which is something the loquacious Kentwan Balmer certainly seems to be if his first two days as a 49er are any indication. In two separate interviews with 49ers writers after he was drafted by the team, Balmer proved to be both articulate and a good storyteller. Regarding his excitement about coming to the 49ers, a team his family has rooted for since Balmer was a child, the North Carolina product said, "There's a lot of tradition that the 49ers have and there's a lot of great players. We were watching them, seeing that red and that gold, baby, and we just loved it. It's in me, so let's go get it. This is where God wanted me to end up. I'm all yours, baby!"

R is for Rimington Trophy: As in the prestigious award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, that goes each year to the nation's top center, an honor for which Cody Wallace was a finalist this past season.

S is for Senior Bowl: Which, for the fourth consecutive year, produced a player that the 49ers selected in the draft, this time Cody Wallace. The San Francisco staff has coached in the Senior Bowl each of the past three years, and in the two previous years alone, drafted 10 players that they worked with during Senior Bowl week - four of whom are now starters with the team.

T is for Team Captain: Which is what Kentwan Balmer and Cody Wallace both were for their respective college teams as seniors. Wallace, in fact, also was Texas A&M's team captain as a junior. The 49ers tend to draft a lot of those kinds of players.

U is for USC: Which is the Southern California school that produced Chilo Rachal, who becomes the 24th player selected from USC by the 49ers since they began participating in the NFL draft in 1950. That's the most players drafted by the 49ers from one college in franchise history.

V is for Virginia Tech: Which is a college football factory that, before the 49ers selected Josh Morgan this year, hadn't produced a 49ers draft pick since San Francisco took defensive end John Engelberger in the second round of the 2000 draft. The 49ers did, however, draft two players from Virginia schools in 2005 - wide receiver Rasheed Marshall from West Virginia and offensive tackle Patrick Estes from the University of Virginia.

W is for Well Traveled: Which is an apt description for Larry Grant, who began his prep football career as a freshman in Northern California, moved to Georgia and played his sophomore and junior seasons at Meadow Creek High in Gwinett County, then moved to another Georgia high school, Norcross, for his senior season. He then moved back to California after the season and graduated from high school in Sacramento, before spending two seasons building his football resume at City College of San Francisco, then moving on to find success in major college football at Ohio State.

X is for X-receiver: Which is the split end in position in the San Francisco offense, which will now be known as the Mike Martz offense, and a place where Josh Morgan figures to get an opportunity to challenge for playing time and show what he can do.

Y is for Young: As in Bryant Young, one of the greatest 49ers of them all, who also was the last significant defensive lineman the 49ers selected with a first-round draft pick (in 1994) until choosing Kentwan Balmer this year. Balmer may eventually fill the formidable shoes left by Young - who retired this year after 14 glorious season - along San Francisco's defensive line, and of this tall task, Balmer said, "That's a Hall of Fame player. I'm not expecting to come in and just replace him. It's going to take a lot of work. Hopefully, he'll be around. I'm going to be in his ear every chance I get. He's going to have to push me away from him because I'm going to try and get all the knowledge I can from him. I expect to come in and make an impact and try to shadow what he did and get better and progress, and hopefully do some of the things he did." In this case, Y also stands for Youngest, since Balmer doesn't turn 22 until October, which makes him the youngest player on the entire team.

Z is for Z-receiver: Which is the flanker position in the San Francisco offense, which now is the Martz offense, which will place a familiar face in that role this year with veteran Isaac Bruce, one of the stars of Martz's "Greatest Shown on Turf" in St. Louis. Arnaz Battle also will be around to contend for playing time here, and perhaps this is a place where Josh Morgan gets a look to see what receiver position is best suited to his skills at the NFL level.



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