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Robert Kupbens-USA TODAY Sports


Nick Sorensen speaks to reporters during 49ers’ mandatory minicamp

Jun 5, 2024 at 2:27 PM


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The San Francisco 49ers kicked off their mandatory minicamp this week. Defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen spoke to reporters after Wednesday's practice. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Of the safeties you have in this camp, who do you think is your best coverage player at safety?

"Honestly, you see a lot of them doing a lot of nice things. It's cool to see. You'd love to see [S Talanoa Hufanga] Huf out there, and obviously [S Tashaun Gipson Sr.] Gip is not with us on our team this year. But, it gives those other guys opportunities. Just how [S George Odum] G.O. I think has done a lot of nice things. I think he took a big step last year and seeing him do it again, it just helps when you've been in the system a few years. He was obviously, you guys know, a special teams player. He's a heck of a football player and that just translates to his game. And when you have great skills of how he can run, how he can tackle, I mean, it's football, right? So now, it's just translating to that on the defensive side, and I think he's done that really well. Starting last year in the offseason, but then even particularly this time. [S Tayler Hawkins] Hawk's done a nice job. When [S Ji'Ayir Brown] Tig was out there, he was doing really well. Even [S] Malik [Mustapha] and [S] Jalen Mahoney, those guys have both, those two rookies, they've shown a lot of, really all those guys with depth and close to the line of scrimmage, have done a lot of nice things just in coverage out of the post with their breaks and their finish. It's been a collective good group this year, this offseason."

You've been around CB Charvarius Ward for a couple years now. I'm curious as to what your thoughts are on his development, how much better he's gotten and the fact that he played with his core injury the second half last year. It didn't seem to really slow him down that much. What did you think of his year last year? What can he do going forward?

"I think it was, clearly it was great. He had great numbers, he had production, but we always knew he was really tough. I think it gets overlooked that he's a tough player as far as how he tackles. He's a really good tackler, which is essential in our defense. We ask a lot of our corners. Everyone has got to be able to tackle, run and hit, be physical, be violent. He does that and it was just good to see how he got some recognition this year, and how he got a little bit more production on his PBUs and his interceptions. And I think he just keeps taking those steps as he matures and becomes that leader. He's just internally motivated and the group that he's around, I think all those guys motivate each other and can't wait to get him back."

He was saying he should have had 10 last year.

"Of course. All those guys say that, right? If you drop any or if you're close at all, that should count, which is the right mindset. I love that."

You ran the ball meetings last year. Do you watch kind of close call turnovers as well?

"Yeah, I used to call it house rules and that would be for the offense too. Growing up in my house, my pops always said, 'if it touches your hands, you have to catch it.' He'd throw a ball and we'd complain because it'd bounce off, 'Come on pops.' He'd say, 'Did it touch your hands? You have to catch it.' So we have the same mentality, just for our whole team. 'Hey did it touch your hands?' And say the same thing. So if there are ones that are close, really it starts with, okay, how could they have gotten themselves in a better position? Whether it was at the line of scrimmage or if they're from depth, could they have melted on the quarterback better? Or if they were in the post, could I have maybe been off the quarterback better in my break? Could I have got on course better? And if you're a corner in man-to-man or a linebacker or a safety of man-to-man, maybe I could have been better at the line of scrimmage and hey shoot if you would've been a half step closer, that PBU could have been a pick. So I think a lot of it goes into that. But for sure, that's why I think a lot of those guys feel like, 'Dang, I should have had that.' Because sometimes they see something that they should have just trusted themselves on within the route concept. When those guys are smart they're like, 'Man, I knew that was coming.' And I think that's where it stems with guys like [LB] Fred [Warner], not just the ones that touch their hands, but the ones that they feel like were other opportunities because they saw something they didn't quite trust themselves to believe and go take their shot."

I presume you won't be running the ball meetings this season or would you still?

"No."

Do you know who is going to do that?

"I think it's going to be [assistant head coach/defense] Brandon Staley."

Given your history with it, would you still want some participation in that?

"I still stress the heck out of it, every single meeting. If there's any production or something we think is close, I'm going to always, I think it's something that permeates throughout the whole team. I think that's always the most important thing is everyone has to talk about it. That's why in those meetings, it's always about how could everybody contribute to this ball? Which is really everything. You've got to have it to score points, right? Unless you get a safety, but pretty much it's all about that. So it's just being connected to that and making sure that everybody's connected to it."

Given your special teams background, do you have any thoughts on the new kickoff rule and are you kind of consulted at all?

"No. I've worked with [special teams coordinator Brian Schneider] Schneids before, I think he's awesome. All those guys he works with, [special teams quality control/game management specialist] August [Mangin] and [assistant special teams coach Matthew Harper] Harp, I know they put a lot of time into it. I haven't, but I see it. You kind of read articles about how everyone's talking. I think there's going to be a lot of what they've said that they're going to kind of learn on the fly. I think they have good plans. Hearing Schneids talk about it here and there. I think he's got a great plan and I think it's being fundamentally sound. And then, like anything, it's a copycat league. I think that once you start to see something, it'll probably keep showing up and Schneider is one of the best in the league and he'll be all over it."

You were known for your speed. Would a guy like you, nowadays, be as valuable on kick returns?

"I don't know. Maybe not, I don't know."

With CB Renardo Green, how have you seen him kind of fitting in a little bit with the veterans and how he's picking everything up?

"I've been really happy with Renardo. The cool thing is he's been doing both nickel and corner and it's not a lot of time right? It's a certain amount of practices and hasn't fully been a nickel. So, he's really embraced the challenge of it. That's the best part. Like it's never perfect because now all of a sudden we're teaching you all these different coverages, but there's also run fits too and then that changes. And guess what? You can't like fully trigger and feel the physicality of the line because there's rules and those guys aren't playing the same. But just with him, it's just the mentality and the competitiveness that I love. We knew the movement skill was there and you see it in man-to-man stuff and he gets those too. But just like he's embraced any challenge that's anything that's hard I think he's embraced and he's kind of attacked it and willingly been like, 'no man, I want more of that.' And that's really been awesome."

CB Isaac Yiadom was a free agent that didn't get a lot of hype when he was brought in, but you guys have been running him with the ones effectively a bunch. What did you expect when you guys signed him and what has he done so far?

"I think with Ike, he came into the league and he kind of bounced around for a while. But everything we had heard about him and you see is what he's been when he got here. He's kind of self-made, like he works. He's very serious. I think when he came to sign, he actually like went and got a workout after he signed. I've never seen that, but that's him. I think that's what's kind of shown up with who he is and he's very meticulous and the stuff that showed up later in the year with him and how he competed against a lot of really good receivers. I think it's been awesome that we're seeing that now too. He's very technical. He's very strong. I think he's a guy that's also, like we talk about Mooney being strong and a tackler, he's got that in his history as well. He's a tough guy. He's physical. He plays with his hands. He's violent. He communicates. He sees things before they happen and that stuff has shown up."

There's no pads, but what are you seeing from the two new defense ends, DL Leonard, Floyd and DL Yetur Gross-Matos?

"A lot of explosiveness. You're right, it's hard to evaluate D-Linemen. But you still watch all the individual and stuff like that. They know how to practice too, so it's like you want to show the explosiveness and every now and then when you get a chance to win, let's win, but stay away from the quarterback. And obviously Leonard's got a ton of experience in doing that for so long. The other thing too about them that I see is like, they're studs, like stud guys. They just go. Leonard acts like he's just barely trying to make the team. He just goes every single day. He doesn't get tired. That part's been awesome, him and Yetur, and [DL] Jordan [Elliott] was going the same way. I feel like all the guys that we brought in are 49er guys, all the rookies, whether they're drafted or undrafted, all the free agents. And that's to me why this offseason's been so fun. It's been so fun because our guys have worked so hard and including our coaches. When you put hard work into it and then you start to see it come out in the communication and dealing with the shifts and the motions that our offense gives us that a lot of the league does as well, it makes it really, really fun, especially when they're working so hard."

It's 80 degrees. How are you wearing a sweatshirt?

"I just am used to it. I wore a T-shirt yesterday and it felt weird. I'm just always pants and a sweatshirt."

Now that you've had a couple of OTAs and now minicamp, are you feeling more comfortable in your new role?

"Yeah, like I said, I truly am having fun because the work does pay off and you put the time in and it makes sense. You have guys you're surrounded with that you're coaching and that you're coaching with and it truly has been fun. It really has. Today was a blast. We got to have some move the ball stuff, so it wasn't scripted. I think the cool part too of being in this role when you're scripting for practice, I'm more connected with [offensive pass game specialist Klay] Kubiak and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and even [senior offensive assistant Mick] Lombardi, you just get to talk to guys more so as you're scripting and looking for certain looks that are going to be hard for you or good for you or scripted for certain players, you also learn more football. So it's just been fun being more connected with the offensive guys through this whole process too."

CB Darrell Luter Jr. has looked really good. What do you see from him in the second year?

"Again, right when you see him, stout, built a lot like Mooney. He's big, he's got length and he's learning to use that. I think with him it stunk because we were excited for him really quick last year when he got here and then got injured pretty quickly. And then when he came back it was mid-season or later in the season and then saw some flashes and so it's about growth. And again, he's a competitive guy. He is really smart. He's a guy that really, really, really cares. So seeing him progress and utilize his size and his length and then his brain and how he sees things, he's progressed the right way and just can't wait to see him when he comes back after these 40 days."

You mentioned Renardo accepting challenges. I saw a team rep he ended up in the slot on WR Ricky Pearsall. I don't know if you did that purposely obviously since you can't do that. But do you relish something like that to see the top two picks kind of going at each other?

"Absolutely. Yeah, I wish we could have one-on-ones in this, but CBA you can't. So you look for those opportunities to try and get guys in, 'alright let's give him a man rep here or let's give him this run fit versus this coverage and this zone or that. Alright, this guy struggled.' So you kind of look for opportunities to get guys matched up if you can."
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