SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers are seeing a lighter, quicker Tank Carradine in practice, Trent Baalke said Wednesday.
The former second-round pick, miscast when he first arrived with the 49ers, is down to 273 pounds after being as high as 296 pounds.
"Yesterday he was beating most of the guys -- in fact I think he won several of the bag drills, the competitions that they’re doing," Baalke, the team’s general manager, said during his pre-draft session with reporters. "Lighter than he’s been since college. He's got more speed, more quickness than he he's had since college.”
Carradine was an edge pass rusher at Florida State where he weighed between 265-270 pounds. He suffered an ACL injury in his final season, sat out most of his rookie season with the 49ers, then started gaining weight to get ready for a Justin Smith-like role on San Francisco's defensive line.
But he only received scant snaps in 2014 and the beginning of 2015. Late last year, at Carradine's request, he began dropping weight to prepare for a new role.
"Once we got him healthy, we didn’t identify soon enough that the four technique probably wasn’t the best fit for him," Baalke said. "There’s no blame to put on anybody. I’m certainly not blaming the coaches for that. It is what it is. You bring guys in, and we had a vision at the time that he could do a little of both, learn the four technique. And it just didn’t work. But don't read that the wrong way. That's not on the coaches or miscommunication. It’s just the way it played out. Had a vision, maybe it wasn’t the ideal vision for him, so if we messed up on that, that’s on me."
So where will Carradine play in 2016?
Despite his transformation, he's probably still better suited to be a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme than an edge rusher in the 49ers' 3-4. The team certainly could use him as a nickel pass rusher -- Baalke said he could play three technique in those situations -- which would allow him to get upfield more quickly.
But it's hard to see Carradine as more than a role player this year, especially if the 49ers use an early draft pick on a pass rusher, and he is due to become a free agent in March.