Bo Rader Wichita (Kan.) Eagle Kansas State's Chris Harper catches a 53-yard scoring pass from Collin Klein in the fourth quarter.

New 49er prepares for test of versatility

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 - 5:47 pm

SANTA CLARA – New 49er Chris Harper was given a wide receiver's number – 13 – Tuesday but confirmed he will have a multifaceted, Delanie Walker-like role in San Francisco.

Harper was drafted by Seattle as a wide receiver out of Kansas State after he began his college career as a quarterback at Oregon.

However, he's never played tight end, so he received a crash course in his first practice with the 49ers on Tuesday.

"I've never gotten in a three-point stance before, so that's going to be different for me," Harper said from in front of his locker.

Harper, at 232 pounds, is slightly lighter than Walker, the former 49ers tight end who was signed by Tennessee as a free agent this offseason. Both mostly played wideout in college and were known as physical pass catchers whom 190-pound defensive backs struggled to bring to the ground.

Harper said he already was somewhat familiar with Walker, whom coach Jim Harbaugh once called a "Swiss army knife," when the 49ers came calling, and he watched game film of Walker when he arrived in Santa Clara on Monday night.

"They put him all over the field," Harper said. "And he's a great athlete. You can see that on film – he's a big guy that can run."

Harper was drafted in the fourth round this year by the Seahawks. However, he was outperformed by unheralded receivers Jermaine Kearse and Stephen Williams and didn't make the final roster. When Seattle put Harper on its practice squad, the 49ers signed him.

Harper said the Seahawks tried to persuade him to stay by bumping up his practice-squad contract. But the 49ers offered a better opportunity to get on the field, albeit one outside of his comfort zone.

Asked whether he was a good blocker, Harper said, "I thought I was a great blocker – as a receiver. But now I've got to block dudes like Aldon (Smith) and Patrick (Willis). So we'll see."

Walker played in the backfield as an H-back, along the line of scrimmage as a tight end and split wide as a receiver for the 49ers. Harper said he will do many of the same things.

Harper, who wore No. 3 in college, said he asked Harbaugh for No. 13, and that's what he was given.

"It's not like I won't be playing receiver, either," he said.

No No. 2 – The 49ers released their initial depth chart, and Kyle Williams was listed as the starting wideout opposite Anquan Boldin. But even Williams said the designation was a bit fuzzy.

"It really doesn't matter who's starting," Williams said. "We're all going to be in there making plays."

Like last year, when Williams, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn all received snaps opposite Michael Crabtree, there likely will be plenty of platooning this season.

The others in the mix are Marlon Moore, Quinton Patton and newcomer Jon Baldwin. Moore started all four preseason games; Williams, recovering from an ACL tear, didn't play in the preseason.

"If somebody needs a blow in a certain position, I'm not just defined to one spot," Moore said. "Whatever they need me to do, I can do it – run deep, short, over the middle, run a slant. It doesn't matter."

Williams confirmed he will handle punt returns Sunday against Green Bay. The team's other punt returner, LaMichael James, is out with a knee sprain.

Et cetera – The 49ers rounded out their practice squad with a tight end, Derek Carrier, who spent his rookie year last season on the practice squads of the Raiders and Eagles. Carrier is the only member of the practice squad who didn't spend the offseason with the 49ers.

• The 49ers aren't finished kicking the tires on quarterbacks. They worked out former Arizona starter John Skelton on Tuesday.

• Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who shared No. 24 with running back Anthony Dixon in the offseason, changed his jersey to No. 28.

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320. Follow him on Twitter @mattbarrows.

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