The 49ers on Friday officially announced Robert Saleh as their new defensive coordinator and Richard Hightower as special teams coordinator as well as seven other members of Kyle Shanahan’s new staff.
* Jeff Hafley, defensive backs
* Johnny Holland, linebackers
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
* Marquis Johnson, strength & conditioning assistant
* Dustin Perry, strength & conditioning assistant
* Bobby Slowik, defensive quality control
* Jason Tarver, senior defensive assistant
* Jeff Zgonina, defensive line
Tarver, 42, coached outside linebackers the last two seasons for the 49ers while Hafley coached the defensive backs in 2016. They are the only holdovers from Chip Kelly’s staff. Tarver is the only member of the staff announced thus far with experience as a defensive coordinator having done so with the Raiders from 2012-14. He presumably will assist Saleh, who is entering his first season as coordinator.
The Bee first reported on Jan. 28 the team’s interest in Hightower, 36, who has had several stints with Shanahan on other NFL staffs and who served as San Francisco’s assistant special teams coach in 2015. Hightower was the Bears assistant special teams coach last year.
Holland, 51, was the Browns inside linebackers coach last year. He spent three years coaching in the CFL and the year before that as linebackers coach with the Raiders. Zgonina, 46, spent 17 seasons as an NFL defensive lineman and entered coaching in 2013. He spent last year as the New York Giants’ assistant defensive line coach.
Sources have told The Bee that John Benton is a frontrunner to be the team’s offensive line coach.
Earlier in the day, Shanahan said on KNBR radio that Saleh, 38, is “as smart as anyone I’ve been around.” He confirmed Saleh would run the same sort of Seahawks-like defensive system that Jacksonville ran last season, one that incorporates four down lineman but also has a linebacker at the line of scrimmage like a traditional 3-4 scheme.
“He studies everything,” Shanahan said. He knows a lot of different systems, but he knows the true Seattle-Atlanta-Jacksonville system inside and out, as much as anybody I’ve been with.”