San Francisco 49ers

49ers training camp newcomers: Linebackers

San Francisco 49ers linebackers Philip Wheeler, from left, NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite practice during an NFL football mini-camp in Santa Clara, June 10.
San Francisco 49ers linebackers Philip Wheeler, from left, NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite practice during an NFL football mini-camp in Santa Clara, June 10. The Associated Press

From high-profile additions to NFL journeymen, The Bee provides a primer to the new players jockeying for position in training camp. Get to know the new faces at two position groups each day for both the 49ers and Raiders. Rosters are cut to 75 players Sept. 1 and 53 players Sept. 5. Read Matt Barrows’ in-depth position preview: outside linebackers and inside linebackers.

Retirement hit the 49ers hard this offseason.

First, the team lost linebacker Patrick Willis – the 2007 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in each of his first seven seasons – who retired with foot problems. Then, in a shocker, Chris Borland left football after only one season. He had 107 total tackles, including 18 against St. Louis and 17 the next week in New Orleans.

San Francisco has four solid returning linebackers but will look to maintain depth at the position.

Key returners: NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Michael Wilhoite

Key departures: Patrick Willis (retired), Chris Borland (retired)

The newcomers

Nick Bellore | 6-foot-1 | 250 pounds

Experience: Five years (Central Michigan)

Last year: He appeared in all 16 games and recorded 15 tackles (11 solo) for the New York Jets.

The skinny: He was an all-Mid-American Conference first-team defender for three years (2008-10) but has played mostly special teams in the NFL. He has one career reception, a 23-yard play from Tim Tebow on a fake punt.

Eli Harold | 6-foot-3 | 247 pounds

Experience: Rookie (Virginia)

Last year: In 12 games with the Cavaliers, the junior had 54 tackles (29 solo), seven sacks, one interception and one forced fumble. He was on the all-Atlantic Coast Conference second team.

The skinny: NFL.com calls Harold an “explosive, leggy outside linebacker who has surprising strength at the point of attack, and (has) the hands and length to become an outstanding edge-setter.”

Marcus Rush | 6-foot-3 | 251 pounds

Experience: Rookie (Michigan State)

Last year: The senior had 37 total tackles, including 101/2 for loss and 71/2 sacks, and forced two fumbles for the Spartans.

The skinny: According to NFL.com, Rush “showed at his pro day that he has the change-of-direction and short-area quickness to play outside linebacker in a 3-4,” and he has received positive reviews for his instincts, football IQ and athleticism.

Philip Wheeler | 6-foot-2 | 245 pounds

Experience: Eight years (Georgia Tech)

Last year: Wheeler had 45 tackles (34 solo) in 15 games with Miami.

The skinny: He’s only missed four games in seven seasons. He played in all 16 in 2012 with the Raiders. He was a member of the Indianapolis team that lost to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.

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