David Akers finds his 'Mini-Me' with Tavecchio


David Akers finds his 'Mini-Me' with Tavecchio

SANTA CLARA -- Giorgio Tavecchio's path was set. His plan was to play soccer at UC Davis. But, then, he received the most unexpected of phone calls.

"I didn't get any bites for football," Tavecchio said. "Nobody else was talking to me about football. Cal, out of the blue called and said, 'Hey, we have a walk-on spot for you.'

"I still remember the date: May 28, 2008, 4:01 p.m. That's the minute my life changed."

There's another important date in Tavecchio's life. It was May 2, 2012 -- exact hour and minute, unknown.

That's when the kicker signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent. And that's when he was locked into the fortunate role of veteran David Akers' understudy.

"It's been a blessing. From a kicking standpoint, we're very similar. We're both lefties and we have the same kind of technique," Tavecchio said.

"In the past couple of years when I got more into football and started watching the NFL, I noticed this really good lefty from Philly who was nailing kicks. When I realized my path was going to end up here in San Francisco, I knew he'd be here. The more I looked into him and talked to people about him, I kept hearing fantastic things. He has far exceeded all my expectations, as far as being a great kicker but also a really good person off the field."

Akers, who enters his 14th NFL season, is a six-time Pro Bowl selection. He set the NFL single-season record a year ago with 44 field goals and most points (166) without a touchdown.Obviously, Akers' status with the 49ers has never been in doubt. But Akers said he believes Tavecchio will some day find regular employment in the NFL.

"He reminds me a lot of me," Akers said. "He came in real green. He has a good leg. He's worked on his craft. He's improved. He still has to kind of figure out the games and put the professionalism into it. But that's a process you learn from."

Akers originally signed with the Carolina Panthers an undrafted free agent in 1997. Akers credits veteran kicker John Kasay for providing him with as much assistance as possible. The next year with the Atlanta Falcons, Akers continued to learn as a camp kicker behind Morten Andersen. After also getting released by the Washington Redskins, Akers moved on to Philadelphia, where he continued to learn from kicker Norm Johnson and punter Sean Landeta.

"Those are some big-time specialists in NFL history," Akers said. "Those guys really poured out to me, so I felt like it was my duty to do that with Giorgio and I feel like he's really responded. I feel like I have a little 'Mini-Me' here."

Coach Jim Harbaugh observes that Tavecchio is taking full advantage of his association with Akers.

"He's done just what he should be doing and that is being in David's hip pocket, asking him questions, watching every stroke that David puts on the ball, every conversation that David has with the holder and the snapper," Harbaugh said.

"He's been a sponge in that regard. He has grown exponentially. He is an outstanding kicker and a lot of that has been from being around David and (special-teams coordinator) Brad Seely this offseason."

Tavecchio played 46 games at Cal and finished his career with 256 points to rank fifth on the school's all-time scoring list and fourth among kickers. He made 48 of 64 (75 percent) field-goal attempts and 112 of his 120 (93.3 percent) extra-point tries in his career.

"It was such a blessing to go to school there," Tavecchio said. "I grew every year, through the struggles and successes. That's why I love football. I feel like I grew a lot and I hope to grow a lot moving forward."

Tavecchio knows what it's like to do a lot of moving. His mother, Gabriella, worked for the U.S. Government. His father, Renato, restored antique furniture in Italy. They met when her furniture was damaged in a move to Italy.

"He never left his little hometown in Italy until he met my mom and she took him around the world," said Giorgio, 22.

Tavecchio lived in Milan, Italy, Connecticut, Rome, Moraga, Virginia and back to Moraga, where the family has lived since 2005. He played football and soccer his final three years at Campolindo High, where he was an all-league soccer player on the North Coast Section champs as a senior.

Now, he's all about football. And he landed in a perfect situation to learn from one of the best.

Tavecchio did all the kicking in the 49ers' exhibition opener Aug. 10 against the Minnesota Vikings. He made a 29-yard field goal and both extra-point attempts. Last week, while Akers made three field goals, including kicks of 50 and 55 yards, Tavecchio handled kickoff chores. He blasted two kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

"You've just seen so much improvement," Harbaugh said. "He was already good to start with, with good tools. He's a long way from being a carpenter, but he's a lot closer now after spending this time with David Akers."

Said Tavecchio, "He (Akers) feels like he's passing the torch to me, which I'm incredibly thankful for. That's what I hope to do in future for some young kid."

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent last offseason working with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on his throwing mechanics.

Ryan went on to set career-bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards passing (4,944), touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1).

New 49ers quarterback Matt Barkley worked with House and Dedeaux for the fourth offseason in Southern California before reporting to Santa Clara for the team’s offseason program.

“Kyle (Shanhan) is on board with what House and those guys are doing – I think, really, because of the year Matt Ryan had,” Barkley said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast” on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a believer in that. He saw the benefits of what Matt did with some of his drops and the timing on routes, how he changed his feet on some things. So we’re kind of sticking with that plan. Everyone is a little different, but for the most part we’re all on the same page when it comes to what our drops are looking like, our footwork and how the ball is coming out.”

House is a former major league pitcher and pitching coach who founded the 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles. Dedeaux pitched at USC and is the grandson of USC baseball coaching legend Rod Dedeaux. Former NFL quarterback John Beck is a motion mechanics instructor.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are among the NFL quarterbacks who have worked with 3DQB.

“I believe in those guys and what they’re doing,” Barkley said. “They’re at the top of their game, working with Brady and a bunch of other guys. They’ve helped me.

“He won’t change your throwing motion or really tweak how the ball comes out, but he’s going to try to maximize velocity and ground force production and torque -- a lot of sports science terms. But, really, just maximizing efficiency with your motion and making sure you’re sequencing is right.”

Barkley had never played for Shanahan before signing a two-year contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. But there are two obvious connections. Barkley’s offensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears was Dowell Loggains, Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. The other connection is House.

"It’s kind of funny, he worked with Atlanta’s staff all of last year, helped Matt Ryan, kind of build his base from the ground up and helped him a lot and he had an MVP year," Barkley said of House.

"There may have been talks down the pipeline, who knows. I don’t think that was the deciding factor by any means, but it never hurts.”