Anyone watching a recent 49ers special-teams practice might find them guilty of having too many men on the field. As it turns out, the 12th guy running down to cover kicks and punts is new coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr.
“I love what I do,” McGaughey said this week. “I love getting out there and getting in the middle of everything. It’s just kind of how I coach.”
His high-energy approach meshes with what Jim Tomsula – who tends to be rather animated himself – wants to build with the 49ers.
McGaughey and Tomsula both started coaching professionally with the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe in 2002. Tomsula was the defensive-line coach and McGaughey, five years removed from playing safety in NFL Europe, coached defensive backs and special teams. The Claymores went 5-5 that season.
What was Tomsula like back then?
“Very detailed. Extremely enthusiastic. The players loved him,” McGaughey said. “He cared; he’s a caring person. He’s a person that’s genuine. What you see is what you get, and he is a workaholic. He’s one of those guys that, we used to be up until one or two o’clock in the morning, just watching tape. And you look at your watch and go, ‘Oh crap. We have to work tomorrow.’”
One of McGaughey’s jobs this summer is breaking in a new punter, fifth-round pick Bradley Pinion, and perhaps a new kickoff specialist.
Pinion, 21, and 16-year veteran Phil Dawson are competing for that job, and the big-legged Pinion’s attempts often sail out of the back of the end zone.
McGaughey conceded that the rookie’s leg strength is impressive and that there will be times when the 49ers will want to prevent an opponent from even attempting a return. But he said Dawson, who at 40 is the 49ers’ most experienced player, has advantages that could be called upon during December games in Chicago and Cleveland.
“Phil can do everything,” McGaughey said. “You’re talking about a guy who kicked in Cleveland forever. Every kick you can possibly have in the bag, he’s got it. So I mean, it becomes the young gun with power and the old veteran with all the tricks of the trade. So I look forward to seeing both of those guys compete.”
Roster opening – The 49ers released guard Ben Gottschalk, a first-year player out of SMU who had foot surgery earlier in the week.
The move opens a roster spot for the team, which has been light at wide receiver and inside linebacker in recent practices. The 49ers signed rookie wide receiver Nigel King on Wednesday and had tryouts for other roster hopefuls Thursday, a day off for the squad.