49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 30, 2010
Graham flashes, Iupati crashes in Senior Bowl

It seems that the players who created the most buzz during the week at the Senior Bowl had quiet games. Quarterback Tim Tebow did nothing to stand out, running back Dexter McCluster flashed on a couple of plays but also had a fumble, and guard Mike Iupati struggled mightily when he was on the right side. Meanwhile, Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard, who was panned during the week, came up big in the game, catching a 40-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Javier Arenas in the North's 31-13 win.

Iupati had a strange game. He looked very good at left guard. On a touchdown run by Oregon's LaGarrette Blount (who looked great), for example, Iupati chipped on one of the defensive linemen and then made a block on a linebacker at the second level of the defense. It was a nice showcase of his strength and athleticism. When he moved to right guard, however, he struggled. He had two bad plays in a row early in the game and was flagged for an obvious holding penalty that negated a touchdown. He had a hard time both with power rushers - Tennessee's Dan Williams - and speed rushers, Georgia's Geno Atkins. Atkins, in fact, spun free of Iupati later in the first half for a quarterback sack. Entering the game, the announcers were raving that Iupati could play five positions on the offensive line. Maybe he can, but today he was only good at one - left guard.

Williams is another guy the 49ers could consider in the first round. Aubrayo Franklin likely will be retained this year, perhaps with a franchise tag. But the 49ers need to start looking for depth at nose tackle. This is an exceptional year for interior defensive linemen, but they will go quickly.

The MVP of the game - deservedly so - was Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. None of the South offensive tackles could stop him and he finished with two sacks and a forced fumble. Someone asked me if pick 17 is too high for Graham. I don't think so. Right now, he's considered a late first-, early second-round pick. Look for him to elevate like Robert Ayers did last year. Ayers, a defensive end at Tennessee, was picked 18th by the Broncos and played LB in Mike Nolan's scheme. Graham had 26 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks for the Wolverines in 2009. He also seems to be a little quicker than Ayers and perhaps a better fit at a 3-4 OLB.

I thought the tackle who best handled Graham was LSU's Ciron Black, who goes 6-4, 331. Black played left tackle at LSU and in today's game but is a right tackle or guard in the NFL. The 49ers love SEC players and Black has excellent size.

Arenas aggressively handled a punt in the third quarter and returned it 62 yards. The play was called back because of a penalty, but it showed why he is considered the best punt returner in the draft. Arenas was run down in the open field on the return. He certainly is not a blazer like Devin Hester, which is why he sometimes struggles in downfield coverage as a cornerback. However, if Kurt Schottenheimer is looking for a fearless, one-cut return man, Arenas seems like an excellent fit.

I thought Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour was the best quarterback. He threw the 40-yarder to Gilyard and also scored on a one-yard run ... Another OLB to keep an eye on is Koa Misi, a Santa Rosa native who was all over the field today. He forced a Tebow fumble. ... It was impossible to get a good impression of the cornerbacks and safeties since they were rarely in the screen. USC's Taylor Mays, however, had an interception at the goal line ... McCluster took a snap in the "Wildcat" formation, which would be another way a team that takes him in, say, the second round could get maximum production from him.

If you watched, please add your 2 cents ....

-- Matt Barrows

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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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