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  • Jim Harbaugh The 49ers coach called Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, who played for him at Stanford, a "freakishly good athlete."

  • Andrew Luck He will go against a 49ers defense directed by Vic Fangio, who was Stanford's defensive coordinator when the Colts' quarterback starred there.

49ers' Harbaugh will see more familiar faces Sunday against Colts

Published: Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013 - 6:43 pm

SANTA CLARA – It's reunion week – again – for Jim Harbaugh, and this time the 49ers' coach is hoping for a happier outcome.

Sunday in Seattle, two of Harbaugh's former Stanford players led the Seahawks to a lopsided victory over the 49ers. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin had a 51-yard catch in the third quarter that helped break open a tight game, and cornerback Richard Sherman shut down 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin and had a fourth-quarter interception. On Wednesday, Sherman was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week.

The familiar faces this Sunday belong to Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, tight end Coby Fleener and, of course, quarterback Andrew Luck, all of whom were under Harbaugh at Stanford in 2010. As he always does with his quarterbacks, Harbaugh liberally flung praise at Luck on Wednesday, complimenting everything from his smarts to his maturity to his underrated athleticism.

"He is a, for lack of a better term, a freakishly good athlete," Harbaugh said. "He's a lot faster than you think he is, and he's really fast. Stronger than he looks, but then you see the evidence on the tape where guys are hitting him pretty solid, pretty hard, and he's able to just flinch it off, kind of (Ben) Roethlisberger-like."

Of course, it will be up to 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio – not Harbaugh – to contend with Luck.

And Fangio and Luck know a thing or two about how the other ticks.

Luck said Wednesday he used to knock on Fangio's door when Fangio was Stanford's defensive coordinator in 2010. His objective – learn as much as he could about Stanford's defense because it would help him learn more about himself.

"They whupped our butts every now and then in practice, and then (the goal) was to figure out why was the defense doing so well, what are our weaknesses, what are my weaknesses?" Luck said. "And he was always very accommodating and very patient probably with what seemed to be a very young, sort of brat, snot-nosed quarterback coming in and trying to learn a little bit about the defense."

If Luck wanted an update on how Fangio's defense has changed since their Stanford days, he could ask two of his Colts teammates.

Starting defensive end Ricky Jean Francois played his first four NFL seasons for the 49ers, and backup outside linebacker Cam Johnson was traded from the 49ers to Indianapolis on Sept. 2.

Hamilton, who coached Stanford's wide receivers for Harbaugh in 2010, has talked about pairing Luck with a power-running game like Stanford had with Toby Gerhart and later Stepfan Taylor. On Wednesday, the Colts acquired bruising running back Trent Richardson from the Browns. The 5-foot-9, 225-pound Richardson, the third pick of the 2012 draft, is unlikely to start Sunday's game at Candlestick Park, but the Colts may use him in specific packages.

Said Harbaugh on why he hired Hamilton in 2010: "Just very impressed with his résumé and interview, and he did not disappoint. He did a fabulous job."

Harbaugh acknowledged it will be "a bit of a reunion" Sunday and it wasn't "necessarily a good thing."

Why not, he was asked?

"Because they're good," he said of his one-time protégés.

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

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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