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  • Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    49ers running back LaMichael James (23) runs in for a touchdown during the NFC championship game between the 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons on Jan. 20, 2013 at the Georgia Dome.

  • Victor Calzada / The Associated Press

    Miami’s Asante Cleveland, from Christian Brothers, snags a pass in the 2010 Sun Bowl.

  • Jae C. Hong / The Associated Press

    Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov, shown in 2012, hopes he has a rosy future with the 49ers. Skov played for San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with the Cardinal in 2010.

Former Christian Brothers star Asante Cleveland joins 49ers as undrafted free agent

Published: Tuesday, May. 13, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 21, 2014 - 8:17 pm

The 49ers on Monday signed seven players bypassed in the NFL draft over the weekend, including Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov and Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner.

Another player they agreed to terms with is Asante Cleveland, who played at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento and the University of Miami.

The Eagles and Patriots also wanted to sign Cleveland, but the 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end chose the 49ers because he thought he had a shot to become the team’s No. 3 tight end. He’ll have to beat out Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier, both of whom also went undrafted in recent years.

Cleveland was used mostly as a blocker as a senior last season and caught only three passes. He was featured more in the passing game as a freshman under previous coach Randy Shannon, however, and he turned heads in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January by catching a 27-yard pass over his shoulder for a touchdown.

Cleveland said he spoke briefly with Eric Mangini, the 49ers’ new tight ends coach, on Saturday, and Mangini told him to be ready to work hard when he arrives in Santa Clara. Cleveland said he hopes the 49ers are impressed by his blocking.

“I think I definitely have that down pat, or at least I’ll come in with some skills,” Cleveland said.

To make room on the 90-man roster, the 49ers released three players, including linebacker Darius Fleming, a fifth-round pick in 2012. Fleming tore an ACL in each of the last two seasons and never played a snap for the 49ers. Only two players from that year’s draft class – second-round pick LaMichael James, a running back, and fourth-round selection Joe Looney, a guard – remain with the team.

The other two players let go are cornerback Dax Swanson and wide receiver DeMarco Sampson.

The 49ers also signed USC linebacker Morgan Breslin, New Mexico center Dillon Farrell, Michigan State right tackle Fou Fonoti and Catawba safety L.J. McCray.

Skov is perhaps the most well-known free-agent pickup. He played for coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford and led the team in tackles in 2010, Harbaugh’s and Fangio’s final year there. Skov tore an ACL the following season, however, then was injured for the scouting combine and Stanford’s pro day.

He will compete with 2014 third-round draft pick Chris Borland, Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody for a spot at inside linebacker. The winner of that competition likely will start alongside Patrick Willis while NaVorro Bowman recovers from his own ACL tear.

Harbaugh scouted Faulkner last month.

Faulkner, 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, missed three games with a broken finger in 2013 but still finished with 1,997 passing yards (nearly 222 per game). He also rushed for 283 yards (4.7 average) and two touchdowns. Faulkner will compete with Blaine Gabbert and former Sacramento State standout McLeod Bethel-Thompson for a backup spot.

“You’re going to like him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a good arm. He’s smart. Strong guy. Got a good-boned guy. And tough.”


Read Matthew Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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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