I pride myself on having the 49ers' numerical roster etched in my brain. No. 20? That's Allen Rossum. No. 14? Easy -- J.T. O'Sullivan. No. 63? Damane Duckett -- don't waste my time. However, there were a few eye-catching players this spring who had me shamefully searching my pockets for a roster. Here are four guys you probably had never heard about in April who are in a nice position to fight for a spot on the final roster - albeit some for the practice squad - come late August.
Lewis Baker, safety, No. 43. The 49ers love size at the safety position - really, they love it all positions - and at 6-3, 203 pounds Baker is as tall and as rangy as they come. The former Oklahoma Sooner linebacker did not time very well in the 40-yard dash and that's probably the reason he went undrafted. But Baker was a quick learner during the recent OTAs who benefited from the absence of starting FS Mark Roman, who was recovering from a shoulder injury. The 49ers have very good depth at safety beyond Roman and fellow starter Michael Lewis. Dashon Goldson had as good a spring as anyone and Keith Lewis made a number of plays as well. Another undrafted free agent, D.J. Parker, also looked good at times but does not have Baker's size. Practice-squad eligible: Yes.
Walter Curry, DL, No. 60. Curry was the dark horse of OTAs. It's hard to evaluate linemen in the spring when no one's wearing pads, but coaches and scouts are high on Curry, who mostly played right defensive end. The first team that ever looked at him was Baltimore - always a huge plus on a Mike Nolan-led team - which signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Albany State (It's in Southwest Georgia, not upstate New York) in 2005. Curry spent the 2006 season on the Jaguars practice squad, which is an achievement in itself considering Jacksonville's defensive tackles at the time. Perhaps most important, Curry won over defensive line coach Jim Tomsula when he played for Tomsula's Rhein Fire in 2006. If newcomer Justin Smith stands up and plays linebacker a lot this season, the 49ers will need someone to hold the edge, like Marques Douglas did so well last season, at right defensive end. Curry is bigger - 6-4, 309 -- and stronger than Douglas. Whether he has Douglas' tenacity will be determined this summer. Practice-squad eligible: Yes.
Louis Holmes, DE, No. 62. Holmes looks like he's straight out of central casting for an NFL defensive end. He's a muscular 6-6, 270-pounds and has a very quick first step. He's exactly what a prototypical 4-3 defensive end should look like. And in the team's non-contact drills this spring, Holmes regularly showed that potent size-speed combination. The question is whether Holmes will continue to look as flashy when the 49ers put the pads on July 25. He arrived at Arizona in 2006 as the top JUCO player in the nations, but his production in Tucson was only mediocre (two sacks last year). Holmes certainly has the frame to become a fearsome pass rusher. What he needs to develop is discipline and consistency. He'll have the perfect teacher in San Francisco in Tomsula, which is why Holmes is a good candidate for the practice squad. Practice-squad eligible: Yes.
Josh Morgan, WR, No. 84. I watched a lot of Virginia Tech football over the past couple of years. And from what I could tell, the Hokies had a dilemma on offense. They had three very good receivers - Morgan, Justin Harper and Eddie Royal - but a fairly plain Jane system and a so-so quarterback. Which is to say that perhaps Morgan would have had more opportunities had he played for another team. (Hint, hint: UVA has been dying for good wideouts in recent years). And all of that is a long way of saying that Morgan has the potential to be real steal in the sixth round. He always has showed big-play ability in Blacksburg but what surprises you when you see him up close is how big he is. At close to 220 pounds, he is precisely the thick, strong receiver the 49ers love. He's built a lot like Jason Hill but he may be a better leaper. Morgan got a lot of work in minicamps and OTAs and seemed to fit right into the mix as if he'd been here for years. Practice-squad eligible: Yes.
Here's the story I wrote in today's Bee about Mike Martz and how smitten he has become with tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
-- Matt Barrows