Training Camp Battles Part VI
July 10 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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The 49ers were content with their linebackers last season, but this season they are looking for greater dynamics. Itís for that reason that last years starters of Julian Peterson, Jeff Ulbrich and Jamie Winborn are not set in stone. While team was unhappy that Peterson didnít have a breakout season in 2001, he is essentially the only linebacker guaranteed a starting position.
Both Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbich will feel the heat from Jamie Winborn in training camp. Smith and Ulbrich both did good jobs last season, but Winborn was pushing to take over even last season. The speedy Winborn would like nothing more than too move up the depth charts.
Rookie linebacker Saleem Rasheed is expected to motivate those ahead of him on the depth charts too. Rasheed is a very raw talent, but his speed and willingness to learn will allow him to grow quickly in the 49ers system. He is expected to compete with Julian Peterson this season, and not win the spot. However, the 49ers project that he will be giving Peterson a run for his money by this time next year.
The 49ers have a very nice mix of linebackers on their squad. All of them will see significant play time this season as defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr mixes and matches to find the best possible lineup for each opponent in each situation. Expect the linebacking core to provide versatility to the defense that hasnít been experienced in quite a few years. In training camp though, expect a fight for the starting positions.