Glenn Dorsey adjusts to life with 49ers
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SANTA CLARA -- So there's a high draft pick who experienced his share of NFL ups and downs, and many would say he did not live up to the lofty expectations.
That player will be lining up against his former team Friday night when the 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in the second exhibition game for both teams.
And we're not talking about the quarterback, either.
Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey was universally recognized as the best defensive player in college football in 2007. He piled up the national awards and placed ninth in the Heisman Trophy balloting while recording seven sacks in his final season at LSU.
The Chiefs selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in 2008. In five NFL seasons, Dorsey recorded just four sacks. In Kansas City, they expected more flash out of their five-year, $30 million investment.
But the 49ers are basically looking for Dorsey to be the kind of player he was with the Chiefs.
Dorsey, 28, comes to the 49ers without the burden of unrealistic expectations. After all, in his final full season with Kansas City -- he appeared in just four games a year ago due to a calf injury -- Dorsey ranked second in the NFL among 3-4 ends in run defense, according to Pro Football Focus.
That sounds very un-bust-like. The 49ers want Dorsey to play nose tackle on first and second downs, as well as fill in at other spots along the defensive line. He will be used mostly on run downs.
"Unbelievable. Terrific," 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula said of Dorsey. "It's the full package with that guy. A talented guy, really smart, really dedicated, great work ethic. Everything is there that you want.
"He's been in the NFL for five years. But all the techniques and the things we do here are all new to him. So the way he's picking it up, I'm really excited for him."
The 49ers signed Dorsey this offseason to a two-year, $6 million contract. And he feels like a rookie all over again.
"It's been challenging," Dorsey said. "I've been doing one thing for the last four or five years. You come in and it's new techniques, new terminology, just learning a new way of doing things around here."
Dorsey is in competition for the starting nose tackle job against third-year player Ian Williams, who has put together a strong training camp. Williams rarely played in his first two seasons, but he has been soaking up the system since arriving on the scene as an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame.
"We'll be fine there between him and Glenn Dorsey," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
The 49ers lost their top two nose tackles, Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois, in free agency. But there does not seem to be much trepidation about replacing them.
Defensive end Ray McDonald said he believes the 49ers have upgraded at nose tackle -- a position on the defense that exits the field when the the 49ers go with five defensive backs in passing situations.
Said inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, "He (Williams) is taking off and excelling at that position. And Glenn is doing the same thing. So there's a lot of competition going on at the nose position. Patrick (Willis) and I are excited about it because we believe both of them can play."
And both of them should play a lot. Both players are capable of playing any of the three line positions in the 49ers' base defense.
Obviously, most of the attention Friday night will focus on Alex Smith playing quarterback for Kansas City against many of his former 49ers teammates. The night will be special for Dorsey, too, he said.
"It's going to be cool," Dorsey said. "I want to play well. I have a lot of friends, family out there. It's going to be fun. I look forward to it."