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Don’t count this one 49ers player out this training camp

Jul 9, 2024 at 4:00 AM



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The San Francisco 49ers, like many NFL front offices, can either hit or miss with talent in the draft. Last year, the organization selected tight end Cameron Latu in the third-round (pick 101) from the University of Alabama.

Latu's first season was met with a season-ending meniscus injury in week three of the preseason. The 6-foot-5 245-pound athlete was placed on the injured reserve and never played a regular or postseason snap in his rookie campaign.

As training camp begins to arrive, there are many mentioning how Latu was a "wasted" draft pick by the 49ers. It's important to remember that injures occur each day in football and one person can not prevent an outcome that is uncontrollable. Latu may continue to receive strong words from outsiders, but he is poised for an opportunity in 2024, if he stays fully healthy.

During his time at Alabama, Latu saw action not just on offense but was a key contributor on special teams. He is a team player as shown by the 49ers' NFC Championship victory over the Detroit Lions where Latu went over to comfort former Alabama teammate Brian Branch, a member of the Lions' secondary.


The posting above displays Latu's positive character and ability to be a quality teammate. The 24-year-old will be competing in a loaded tight ends room that includes All-Pro George Kittle. With the type of character Latu demonstrates, there's no question that he will lean on his teammates to make him a better athlete and person.

Playing at Alabama is a dream come true for many incoming high school prospects but for Latu, he was tabbed as a linebacker before making the switch to tight end in 2019. It took three years before he even caught a football and his patience paid off.

Latu's Collegiate Statistics:


2018: Redshirt True Freshman (Played in two games and recorded one tackle)
2019: Played 11 games as a special teams player
2020: Played 12 games as a special teams player
2021: Played 15 games. 26 receptions for 410 yards, a 15.8 average and 8 TDs
2022: Played 11 games. 30 receptions for 377 yards, 12.6 average and 4 TDs

In the 2023 preseason, Latu displayed his strong catching abilities when he caught a boot pass from quarterback Sam Darnold. The Denver Broncos' defender was draped all over him but he still made the contested catch, showing a glimpse of what he brings to the offense. Late in the fourth-quarter of the same contest, Latu caught a 22-yard touchdown.


The recent addition of veteran tight end Logan Thomas should also benefit in a very talented room. Thomas' arrival brings a 33-year-old who made the switch from quarterback to tight end early in his career, and fought to make an NFL roster numerous times. Not only that, Thomas will be a leader for Latu and the other young athletes on the 49ers' roster. He should be able to teach them how to block properly, a staple of Thomas' game.

Just this past month, several 49ers were in attendance at the annual Tight End University (TEU) in Nashville, Tennessee. According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Jennifer Lee Chan, the attendees included current 49ers tight ends George Kittle, Logan Thomas, Eric Saubert, Cameron Latu, and Mason Pline.

Participating in the annual TEU event alongside former and current NFL tight ends is a positive sign for Latu as he enters his second season. While many may write him off after missing just one season due to an injury, he is an athlete who should not be counted out quite yet. There is strong potential and upside to the draftee, regardless of how early fans think he went. With training camp almost underway, it will be interesting to see how Latu performs with already having preseason game experience from a season ago.


Can the second-year tight end carve out a role in a very loaded 49ers offense? Let us know in the comment section below and answer our poll.

Poll

  • Will second-year TE Cameron Latu produce in some capacity in 2024?
  • Yes
  • No
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1 Comment

  • Cynic
    The negative feeling about Latu has nothing to do with his injury. In preseason trainig camp last year he displayed a talent for dropping passes. I guess the writer has a bad memory.
    Jul 9, 2024 at 10:00 AM
    0
    Response: Hi Cynic, I appreciate the comment and your analysis. Regarding the drops at training camp last year, many players coming from the college level to the NFL experience drop passes at the start of camp. Whether that is OTAs or even training camp, it happens. Players have to adjust to the NFL speed and an increase of responsibility on a given play. In August last year, Latu went to the podium and discussed dropping two passes in camp and told reporters that, "The drops are on me. Unacceptable at the end of the day." He owned up and strived to improve, and I can always get behind a player who has a strong character. He even mentioned how he will get on the jugs machine and work to fix his rut. I personally don't take stock in his training camp drops from last year. He went on to play in three preseason games after his two drops in early August and performed relatively decent prior to his injury. He caught 4 receptions out of 6 attempts and had 55 receiving yards and a touchdown. If the drops continue this year, especially with a full offseason under his belt, then beginning to worry might be acceptable. Thanks again! Hope to see you around more and have a great one!

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