KANSAS CITY, Mo. At various times in the conversation, Jim Tomsula used "unbelievable," "terrific" and "exciting" to describe new 49ers nose tackle Glenn Dorsey.
"Just doing a wonderful job," said Tomsula, the 49ers' defensive-line coach. "Works at it and picks it up quick. I couldn't say enough good things about Glenn Dorsey and where he's at right now."
So why is Dorsey, who signed a two-year, free-agent contract with the 49ers in March, playing with San Francisco's second string despite all that praise?
For one, Dorsey mostly played defensive end when he was with Kansas City, which used the fifth overall pick to select the former LSU star in 2008.
The 49ers envision him more but not exclusively as a nose tackle. That position requires much more technique and know-how, and Dorsey, 28, is still learning those skills.
"There's more stuff (opponents) can do to you," Dorsey said. "Inside, it's a lot faster."
The second reason is that Ian Williams, who entered the league undrafted in 2011, has settled in at the position and isn't giving it up easily. Williams has been practicing alongside fellow defensive linemen Justin Smith and Ray McDonald throughout training camp and started last week's game against the Broncos.
"Ian Williams has been doing the same drill work, the same techniques and the same vision progressions for two years, OK?" Tomsula said. "Now, to Ian's credit, Ian has worked extremely hard. Tickled to death with Ian and what's going on with Ian."
Dorsey said there's no friction among the competing defensive linemen. Williams, the first player he met upon arriving in Santa Clara, has become his closest friend on the team.
"Ian works hard, man. He's doing a tremendous job," Dorsey said. "And he helps me out with the techniques and the terminology and the day-to-day stuff."
The 49ers usually will have five defensive linemen in uniform on game days. Tomsula noted Dorsey and Williams can play defensive end. One of them certainly will be needed there in Week 1 when Demarcus Dobbs, who backs up Smith at right defensive end, serves a one-game suspension related to his 2012 arrest for marijuana possession.
Join The Bee's Matthew Barrows today at 11 a.m. to talk about tonight's 49ers game against the Chiefs.
49ERS TO WATCH
The Bee's Matthew Barrows highlights six players to watch today against the Kansas City Chiefs:
No. 17, A.J. Jenkins, WR
The klieg light that was shining upon Jenkins grew even hotter after last week's lackluster preseason game against Denver. Jenkins needs a solid game against the Chiefs to lift his confidence and gain the trust of the team's quarterbacks. Look for him to get into tonight's game early, as he did against Denver.
No. 24, Nnamdi Asomugha, CB
He's been good in practice suffocating smaller receivers with his long arms and competing for the ball with bigger pass catchers like Anquan Boldin. It still remains to be seen whether Asomugha can keep pace on deep balls, and the 49ers wouldn't mind seeing the Chiefs challenge him.
No. 90, Glenn Dorsey, NT
One of the 49ers' few free-agent acquisitions, Dorsey finds himself behind undrafted Ian Williams on the depth chart. A former first-round pick out of LSU by the Chiefs, Dorsey was a disappointment in Kansas City. While he mostly played defensive end for the Chiefs, he's now playing nose tackle, which the 49ers feel is his more natural position.
No. 5, B.J. Daniels, QB
He didn't take any snaps last week against Denver, but the 49ers want the do-everything rookie to get a few opportunities in the second half today. Quarterbacks who stand under 6 feet are rare. But Daniels has a powerful arm and is able to extend plays with quickness and elusiveness.
No. 96, Corey Lemonier, OLB
The third-round pick was one of several 49ers outside linebackers who harassed Denver quarterbacks last week. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio gave solid marks to Lemonier, who mostly has been playing on the left side behind Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson. The 49ers are likely to keep five outside linebackers this season.
No. 38, Darryl Morris, CB
The undrafted cornerback was under the radar when training camp began. But he jumped out in recent practices, and he has a chance to make the team this year, perhaps on its practice squad. Morris is small but very fast. Look for him to play extensively in the third and fourth quarters.