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3 San Francisco 49ers Rookie pass rusher Andre Carter may be not just a blessing but a Kearse

He's a battle-scarred veteran with a surly disposition, an
underappreciated warrior who has no use for hype. Yet when 49ers
offensive tackle Derrick Deese is asked about the upcoming
season, his 10th in the NFL, he suddenly becomes more bubbly
than Regis Philbin. "I can't wait for the season to start,"
Deese said after completing a training-camp practice on a
104[degree] August afternoon in Stockton, Calif. "Let the games
begin, because I'm seeing some special things on that practice
field, and I'm fired up to make it somebody else's problem."

It refers to San Francisco's defensive line as a whole and
specifically to first-round draft pick Andre Carter, a speed
rusher with whom Deese has been engaged in spirited sparring
sessions for the past four months. From the first time the two
players squared off in a one-on-one pass-rushing drill at a
postdraft minicamp, Deese has been amazed by the former Cal
All-America's quickness, agility and maturity. If Carter has the
impact that Deese and many teammates and coaches are
anticipating, the Niners' long-term rebuilding plan could be
vastly accelerated. Says Carter, "We're trying to bring back the
respect that was lost a few years ago."

To be sure, one player can't restore the aura of excellence to
the 49ers, who won five Super Bowls from 1981 through '94 and had
an unprecedented 16 consecutive seasons (1983-98) with at least
10 victories. However, in losing 22 of 32 games over the past two
seasons, San Francisco suffered from subpar defensive line play,
which in turn put added pressure on a young secondary. That
figures to change with the drafting of right end Carter (San
Francisco traded up two spots to get him at No. 7) and the
progress of two young players who will split snaps on the left
side, 25-year-old Chike Okeafor and 24-year-old John Engelberger.
On passing downs the Niners plan to unleash Carter from one side
and outside linebacker Julian Peterson, their top pick in 2000,
from the other.

Throw in the return of defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, a
free-agent signee who hopes to recapture the success he enjoyed
with partner-in-grime Bryant Young four years ago, and the 49ers
suddenly appear robust up front. In 1997, Stubblefield had 15
sacks and was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, but then he
joined the Redskins as a free agent. In three disappointing
seasons with Washington he had just seven sacks, and he was
released in March.

"We're working toward our line becoming the strength of our
defense," says Young. "If we all keep working and improving, we
could be a lot better than we were last year, maybe even a
playoff team."

That may be a lot to ask given San Francisco's youth and its
uncertainty at halfback, but the hyperbole has flowed since the
6'4", 265-pound Carter came aboard. Not content to compare him
with former San Francisco pass-rushing stars Fred Dean and
Charles Haley, team officials have hinted that he might have the
same impact rookie Jevon Kearse had on the Titans in 1999. As
with Kearse, Carter is considered light for an every-down
defensive end, but he hopes to offset a lack of size with his
leverage, technique and hand strength.

Carter's teammates have taken to calling him Junior in deference
to his father, Rubin, a former Denver Broncos nosetackle
(1975-86) who is the Jets' defensive line coach. Andre's passion
for football developed slowly. He says his most compelling memory
of his father's workplace was watching Pee-Wee's Playhouse in the
Broncos' team lounge. "To get me to go to the games," he says,
"my mom had to bribe me with candy bars."

Andre became a taekwondo black belt at 12 and credits his martial
arts training with helping him develop quick hands. Rubin, who
was Stubblefield's position coach in Washington in 1999 and 2000,
further honed Andre's technique, something his father may regret
when the 49ers visit the Jets on Oct. 1.

Now Carter has another, unlikely mentor--Deese, who quickly
enlisted the rookie as his partner for one-on-one workouts at the
conclusion of minicamp and training-camp practices. It's a
relationship Deese enjoyed with Young when Deese was a guard in
'94. Like Carter, Young was an undersized college standout whose
maturity, work ethic and character compelled San Francisco to
trade up (also to the No. 7 slot) for his services. Young
delivered by becoming one of the league's best defensive linemen,
and Deese believes Carter will come through, too.

"He's a mature kid who wants to work hard at all costs, and
that's the most important thing," Deese says. "The guy is just so
fluent. I'm helping him out, but he's also helping me out, which
is the old 49er way."


COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Young is the old man on a line full of fledglings the Niners are counting on to make a playoff push.


an opposing team's scout sizes up the 49ers

"These guys may be better than people think. They keep adding
good, young players on defense, and their offense can score.
They're probably an 8-8 team, but if they get a couple of
breaks, they might make the playoffs.... Andre Carter was a huge
addition. He should surprise people with his strength against
the run, and he'll get to the quarterback.... Jeff Garcia threw
for 4,200 yards last year, which is remarkable. He's got a quick
release, is accurate and can hit seams within a 30-yard box. His
mobility helps, because the offensive line is patchwork.... The
running game is a problem, unless Garrison Hearst can shock
everybody and make it back from his 1999 ankle injury. Kevan
Barlow is a big back with surprising versatility, but he's
inconsistent. Paul Smith stinks--I can find five or 10 guys on
the waiver wire just like him.... Other than Terrell Owens, I
don't like their receivers. J.J. Stokes can't run or get away
from press coverage at the line of scrimmage, and Tai Streets
drops a lot of balls and isn't very tough.... Bryant Young is
not as good as he was before his leg injury, but with help
around him, like Carter, he can still be a top player. Dana
Stubblefield won't do a thing, though. He just shut it down in
Washington.... They added Derek Smith at linebacker, and I like
him. He's not real big, but he's quick, instinctive and has a
knack for finding the ball.... The safeties are solid,
especially Lance Schulters. He's a good open-field tackler and
an explosive hitter who flies to the ball."


16 at New Orleans
Oct. 1 at N.Y. Jets (Mon.)
14 at Atlanta
21 Open date
28 at Chicago
18 at Carolina
25 at Indianapolis
9 at St. Louis
30 at Dallas

NFL rank: 10 (tie)
Opponents' 2000 winning percentage: .508
Games against playoff teams: 7

PROJECTED LINEUP with 2000 statistics

COACH: Steve Mariucci; fifth season with San Francisco (35-29 in
2000 RECORD: 6-10 (fourth in NFC West)
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): offense 18/4/4; defense 16/29/29


QB Jeff Garcia 20 561 att. 355 comp. 63.3% 4,278 yds.
31 TDs 10 int. 97.6 rtg.

RB Garrison Hearst 61 310 att. 1,570 yds. 5.1 avg. 39 rec.
[1] 535 yds. 13.7 avg. 9 TDs

RB Paul Smith 232 18 att. 72 yds. 4.0 avg. 2 rec.
55 yds. 27.5 avg. 0 TDs

FB Fred Beasley 120 50 att. 147 yds. 2.9 avg. 31 rec.
233 yds. 7.5 avg. 6 TDs



WR Terrell Owens 11 97 rec. 1,451 yds. 13 TDs
WR J.J. Stokes 200 30 rec. 524 yds. 3 TDs
WR Tai Streets 223 19 rec. 287 yds. 0 TDs
TE Greg Clark 195 38 rec. 342 yds. 2 TDs
K Jose Cortez[N][2] 235 0/0 XPs 19/25 FGs 57 pts.
PR Cedrick Wilson(R)[N] 313 no punt returns in 2000
KR Jonas Lewis 397 9 ret. 18.7 avg. 0 TDs

LT Derrick Deese 6'3" 289 lbs. 13 games 13 starts
LG Ray Brown 6'5" 318 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Jeremy Newberry 6'5" 304 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Dave Fiore 6'4" 290 lbs. 15 games 15 starts
RT Scott Gragg 6'8" 325 lbs. 16 games 16 starts


LE John Engelberger 34 tackles 3 sacks
LT Bryant Young 44 tackles 9 1/2 sacks
RT Dana Stubblefield[N]39 tackles 2 1/2 sacks
RE Andre Carter(R)[N] 60 tackles 13 1/2 sacks
OLB Julian Peterson 46 tackles 4 sacks
MLB Derek Smith[N] 89 tackles 1 sack
OLB Jamie Winborn(R)[N]105 tackles 3 sacks

CB Ahmed Plummer 75 tackles 0 int.
SS Lance Schulters 88 tackles 0 int.
FS John Keith 22 tackles 1 int.
CB Jason Webster 59 tackles 2 int.
P Chad Stanley 69 punts 39.5 avg.

[N]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 119)
[1]1998 statistics
[2]XFL statistics

"Garcia's got a quick release, is accurate and can hit seams
within a 30-yard box."