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Mariucci Impressed with Undrafted Free Agents

May 13, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Coach Mariucci has been impressed with many of the free agents that the 49ers signed after the draft. Among those making an impression are David Allen, Grant Heard, Al Blades, Dave Costa, John Schlecht, Tom Ashworth, James Jordan, Wes Call, Dan Goodspeed, Paul Mandina, Jamie Rheem and Stephen Cheek.

David Allen is a 5’9” 200 pound running back kick returner. Although small he is a versatile offensive skill player that instantaneously impacts the game with his return skills. He can line up in the backfield or at wide receiver making him a viable third down option. In 1998 he led the nation in punt return yardage. He had a very successful college career that ended with an injury filled senior season. It seems that the kick return job is his to lose.  

Grant Heard is a 6’2” 200 pound wide receiver from Mississippi. He leaves Ole Miss as one of the most prolific receivers in school history, setting career records for receptions (142) and touchdown receptions (16). He also became only the third player in school history to finish his career with over 2,000 yards receiving. He has great size and is very effective in the red zone. He is the younger brother of 49er safety Ronnie Heard.

In 2000 Grant caught 44 passes for 655 yards and 9 touchdowns. He sat out the 1999 season with an injury. In 1998 he caught 40 passes for 559 yards and 4 touchdowns. He needs to become more physical and rely on his size to be more of a possession type receiver.

James Jordan is a 6’1” 232 pound wide receiver from Louisiana Tech who led the nation in receptions in 2000. He had 109 catches for 1,003 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2000. In 1999 he had 81 catches for 824 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 1998 he had 56 catches for 662 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is a talented receiver with slow speed.

Wes Call is a 6’6” 315 pound offensive lineman from Washington. He has great size and decent athletic ability. Could be a developmental-type player. He has shown his durability by only missing one game in his college career. Helped Washington lead the Pac 10 in rushing for the second year in a row.

Tom Ashworth is a 6’5” 295 pound offensive lineman from Colorado. Has worked at tight end and offensive tackle. He shared team MVP honors with Michael Lewis in 2000. He had and injury filled college career, but came back in 2000 and shoed the quick feet and athleticism needed to make it as an offensive tackle in the NFL. He is still very raw, but likely to improve each time he steps on the field.

Dave Costa is a 6’5” 295 pound offensive lineman from Wisconsin. He was a four-year starter on the offensive line, although he missed much of his senior season with a broken leg. He was a three-year starter at Right Guard, but played at both tackle positions also. He was the lead blocker for Ron Dayne for three seasons before he went to the Giants. Wisconsin Assistant Coach Jim Hueber says that Costa shows great leadership skills and “Dave is a football-smart kid and he takes pride in not being wrong with an assignment.”  I see Costa as a possible replacement for the recently departed Phil Ostrowski.

Dan Goodspeed is a 6’6” 300 pound offensive lineman that has been with the 49ers in mini camp before. He has a rare combination of size, speed, strength and athletic ability. He is very dedicated with an excellent work ethic. He excels in pass blocking.

Al Blades is a 6’2” safety from Miami who is the younger brother of Brian and Bennie Blades. He was Miami’s vocal leader and the team’s most emotional player. He is an excellent safety in both run support and coverage. He was one of the nation’s hardest hitting defensive backs. He was a second-team All Big East pick in 1999 and a first-team choice in 2000.

He had 82 tackles, 3 broken up passes and an interception in 1998. In 1999 he had 89 tackles, three broken up passes and an interception. In 2000 he had 87 tackles, 4 passes broken up and an interception. With good size and the ability to play against the run and pass he could be a nice fit in the secondary.

John Schlecht is a 6’0” 295 pound defensive lineman from Minnesota. He has tremendous tangibles and work ethic. He is a relentless player always giving a super effort. He has explosive quickness off the ball and is very good at shooting the gap. Despite his lack of size he has a legitimate chance at making the team.

In 1998 he had 46 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. In 1999 he had 78 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. In 2000 he had 50 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and one sack.

Paul Mandina is a 6’4” defensive tackle from Indiana. Paul was an honorable mention All-Conference selection by the Big Ten coaches and media after the 2000 season. He served as a team captain displaying excellent leadership skills in 2000. He was selected as Indiana’s top defensive lineman.

He started every game in the 1999 and 2000 seasons. In 1999 he finished with 40 tackles, 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked pass. In 2000 he finished with 40 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and 4 blocked passes.

Jamie Rheem is a kicker out of Kansas State who is competing with a former XFL player for the starting kicking job. He was a All-Big 12 placekicker and a Groza finalist in 1999 and 2000. He made 41 of 43 extra points and 18 of 21 field goals in 1999. In 2000 he made 49 of 50 extra points and 17 of 20 field goals.

He is very accurate up to 45 yards and can kick off. He has average leg strength and range.

Stephen Cheek is a punter from Humboldt State who has a very good chance of beating out Chad Stanley to become the 49ers new punter. Over the last 2 years he had an average of 36.9 with a long kick of 63 yards. The 49ers had contacted him before the draft, letting him know of their interest in signing him if he were not drafted.

These are a few of the players that Coach Mariucci pointed out as making a good impression after the team’s first mini camp. All of these players have a chance at making the team, but it is not likely that the 49ers will be in a position to be able to sign them all.

It does look like the 49ers will be signing Zack Bronson very soon and also bringing Rick Mirer back as the second string Quarterback behind Jeff Garcia.

I hope that some of these players will have an impact on the team as the 49ers have had much success in the past with their undrafted free agent signings.      
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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