Stand Outs at Mini-Camp
May 24 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
The most interesting part of any mini-camp is watching, and hearing how certain players have improved over the off-season, or how a rookie grabbed the attention of a coach. Such news provides a boost of optimism to the fans of a team. In the 49ers latest mini-camp, there were several players that met the required criteria.
Three running backs grabbed the coach’s eyes. Kevan Barlow looked absolutely incredible finding holes to run through. Barlow has taken extra care in keeping his legs healthy this off-season, and in just one season Barlow’s appears to have transcended from wide-eyed rookie, to a comfortable second year player.
Jonas Lewis is another back who impressed coaches this mini-camp. Lewis spent last season on the injured reserve after having an incredibly promising pre-season. Lewis looked very sharp and quick in mini-camp. Lewis appears determined to be a big factor with the 49ers this season.
Saladin McCullough, now in his second off-season tryout with the 49ers, caught the attention of coaches too. McCullough appeared to have good vision in practice, and showed that he had improved since last seasons’ try out.
Passes were sticking to the hands of second year player Cederick Wilson. Wilson displayed very little with the team last season, but this mini-camp has given him a chance to shine. Wilson may even be ready to challenge Tai Streets if he continues to play as the level he has been this mini-camp.
Tight end Eric Johnson looked like a seasoned veteran catching passes, and running tight patters. The second year players has been the answer to the 49ers prayers at tight end. The team has extremely high hopes for Johnson, who fits beautifully into the 49ers West Coast Offensive system.
Offensive lineman Kyle Kosier has looked good playing tackle in practice. The rookie is a long term project for the team, but his advances this off-season already have shown promise.
Rookie linebacker Saleem Rasheed has been starting at the linebacker position all of camp. The coaches are very happy with his speed and maturity in the defense. They expect him to be a big contributor this season.
Cornerback Rashad Holman, in his second year with the team has looked very promising. After being thrown into the fire as a nickel back quite often last season, as an undrafted free agent, Holman now looks at home in the defense, and could be the 49ers fourth cornerback on the depth chart. Safety Al Blades, who spent his rookie season on the 49ers’ practice squad, has grabbed the coaches’ eyes too. Blades is taking advantage of an injury to John Keith in strutting his stuff. Blades wants to fill one of open two spots at safety on the 49ers roster.
News on Mike Rumph has been encouraging, but nothing out of the ordinary. The 49ers high expectations for Rumph, may limit their enthusiasm for the player.
Defensive lineman John Schlect has come a long ways this off-season. Schlect, a bench player for the team last season is looking to become a force in the rotation. The coaches have been impressed with Schlects improvement at the defensive tackle positions this mini-camp.
Veteran defensive lineman, Sean Moran, in his first season with the 49ers, has looked impressive. Moran has had very little problem adjusting to the 49ers defensive lingo, and seems ready to be an impact player on the team. The 49ers have high hopes for this free agent addition.
It’s been stated that Andre Carter who became a huge force for the 49ers from defensive end last season, has made phenomenal improvements this season. Carter at some points looked as if he was holding back in order to not beat up on the younger players too badly at this mini-camp. Carter looked like the play maker the 49ers had hoped for when they drafted him in the first round only a year ago.
There has been plenty of good news about the 49ers newcomers and youngsters coming out from this mini-camp. It’s hard not to become optimistic about the team and these players when this information comes out. Still it must be said that some of the older players at this camp, have a huge advantage when facing rookies, it often makes them look that much better.