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Malik Mustapha impresses 49ers DB coach early

May 23, 2024 at 2:41 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers kicked off organized team activities (OTAs) in Santa Clara this week. While the coaching staff has not had much time with their first-year players, defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks praised one of his rookies—defensive back Malik Mustapha.

The 49ers selected Mustapha out of Wake Forest in the fourth round (pick No. 124) of last month's draft. The defensive back's versatility immediately caught the team's eye.

"I just think with safety today and defensive backs today, you need to be versatile. Even linebackers," defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen said earlier this month. "I mean, look at what we've done with certain guys that have kind of been in different positions, and it's such a fast game and offenses look to expose you in certain ways. So you have to be versatile. We like when guys have the versatility (of Mustapha), but we also just loved his play style."

When asked what he admires about the rookie, Bullocks stated, "Everything that I see on tape—a guy that plays fast, physical, violent. The thing is, he's very smart. He has a strong work ethic."

Mustapha impressed the 49ers during interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine, showcasing his intelligence and passion for the game. That wasn't all that impressed Bullocks.

"He's a very smart player," Bullocks continued. "When I look at him, I know he's built. I wish I had a body like he did, especially up top. But when you're looking at him, he's a guy that's got good feet and good hips. He's a very fluid athlete. You wouldn't think that for a guy that's that stout—5-9, 208—to have fluid hips, but he's got fluid hips. He's got good feet, very smart, he's versatile.

"There's a lot of things on the back end when you watch the tape. He can come down in a box, he can bang, he can blitz. He's one of the best tackling DBs in the draft. As a defense, you want guys that can tackle because when I tell guys, 'What's your number one stat? Your number one stat is gonna be tackles. You're gonna be making more tackles than anything else.' So you need a guy that can tackle and have the right mindset and the mentality."

Like Sorensen, Bullocks also praised Mustapha's versatility, which the 49ers have valued throughout head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch's tenure. For defensive backs, that means players who can play outside, inside, and deep in any formation.

Speaking to reporters after being drafted, Mustapha commented, "I'm a downhill, speed, tenacity, ballplayer that plays with a lot of fire. I'm able to line up pretty much everywhere. Just watching the film, I'm able to impact the game on all levels of the football. I'm pretty sure the 49ers have a plan for me. I really feel comfortable in a lot of spots, being able to show that versatility during my time at Wake Forest."

Bullocks added, "So I'm excited about him. He's getting better each and every day, every time he steps on the field."
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