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D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

49ers rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga has opportunity to be the steal of the draft

Aug 26, 2021 at 10:10 AM--

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With the anticipation and hype of when rookie quarterback Trey Lance will start in a regular-season game, the San Francisco 49ers may have found a draft gem with rookie Talanoa Hufanga. The safety has a chance to take the starting strong safety spot, could be the steal of the draft, and may become a star.

Hufanga, drafted in the fifth round from the University of Southern California, had a prolific career while playing for the Trojans but fell in the NFL draft because of health and durability concerns.

During an August 11 press conference, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said he is excited about the plays the rookie safety is making during training camp.

"He's getting better and better each day," Ryans said. " I think coach [safeties coach Daniel] Bullocks, coach [defensive passing game specialist/secondary coach Cory] Undlin, they're doing an awesome job with him. Really smart guy. He's doing a great job, and he's progressing every day. So, I was excited. I think I jumped up with him when he made that play. I was very excited to see that"

The Trojans have had two NFL Hall of Fame safeties come from their program, like 49ers great Ronnie Lott and Troy Polamalu, who helped Hufanga train to prepare the draft.

Though he was not a first-round pick like Lott and Polamalu, his style and play are like the Hall of Famers when it comes to coverage and tackling.

In an August 23 presser, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said he thinks the rookie has an opportunity to get the starting spot.

"Yes, I think Hufanga, with the way he's played these last two weeks and the way he's been in practice, I think he's definitely given himself an opportunity," Shanahan said. "Obviously [Jaquiski] Tartt has been out (Tartt was activated from the PUP on August 25), PUP, and Tavon [Wilson] has had a real good camp too, so we'll see how that finishes out."

Though he has only three tackles in the two preseason games, Hufanga's presence in the coverage was evident against the Chiefs and Chargers. He forced quarterbacks such as Chase Daniels, Easton Stick, Shane Buechele, and Chad Henne to rethink where they would throw the ball.

With 21 starts with the Trojans, Hufanga had 203 tackles, four interceptions, 6.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles.

According to the Trojans' official site, Hufanga has won many awards in high school, as well as his time with the Trojans, such as the AP Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Lott Impact Trophy, first-team All American for ESPN, CBS Sports, The Athletic, and USA Today All-American.

Hufanga was also named the 2020 Polynesian Co-College Player of the Year and the 2017 Polynesian National Player of the Year.
  • Written by:
    Sports has been my first love since I was 12 years old. At one point I wanted to play football professionally. I started to take photography as a hobby in my teenage years but this was when I followed sports. I started to listen to sports radio, I found my true calling and it was to be a sports talk show host. Though I follow football and basketball, I started to have a new love of cultures around the world. After graduating from San Antonio College in 2018, I worked for the Castroville News Bulletin before going to A&M San Antonio to get my communications degree. Since I have written for the Ranger of San Antonio College, the News Bulletin and the Mesquite of Texas A&M San Antonio, I met many people and went to a lot of events. My major milestone was being in the press box of the San Antonio Commanders game for the Mesquite and being apart of a press conference with the Medina County Sheriff and other local news outlets. When I am not doing anything, I like to watch old cartoons on the DC Universe, play video games such as Mega Man and the Mass Effect series. I have also created Youtube channel called "Anger Management" with my friend Aaron Donnell.

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