In a way, 49ers rookie B.J. Daniels is a bit like former Oakland A’s super sub Tony Phillips back in the 1980s, willing to play all over the field.
Back then, the A’s just wanted to get Phillips’ bat into the lineup, and so he played shortstop, second base and third base, plus the outfield. He was a jack-of-all-trades and a valuable piece of the A’s winning puzzle.
Now Daniels, a rookie from South Florida, is bringing speed, athleticism and his skills as a winning college quarterback to a very talented Niners team that hopes he can make the roster and help it in a number of ways.
Though he was a successful quarterback at South Florida, it’s probably his only chance to make the team.
On Thursday, when 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was talking about the competition for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind starter Colin Kaepernick, Harbaugh only mentioned veterans Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien.
But then Harbaugh brought up Daniels, the seventh-round draft choice who’s been getting work at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and special teams.
“He’s really progressing at quarterback,” Harbaugh told Taylor Price of 49ers.com. “He’s doing good work there and he’s putting in a lot of time at the receiver position and at the halfback position.
“It’s been impressive how he goes from receiver to quarterback. He puts on the gloves and then he’s back at running back. He’s doing a pretty darn good job. … Arrow up there.”
At South Florida, Daniels was a dual threat as a four-year starting quarterback, finishing No. 3 in Big East Conference history in total yards with 10,501 – 2,068 rushing and 8,433 passing.
With all the injuries to hit the 49ers receiving corps, Daniels is getting more of a chance to show what he can do at the position – and the 49ers need the help. But this offseason, Daniels also worked on his punt-return skills. The more things he can do, the more of a chance it may give him to make the roster as a No. 3 quarterback who can also contribute in other ways besides just standing on the sidelines during games.
“I’m comfortable with my hands and, like I said, anything I can do to help out is what I’m going to do,” he told the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows in May, about working on catching punts. “Just to keep my options open.”
Daniels spent quite a bit of time this offseason working out at South Florida, where Willie Taggart – a former Harbaugh assistant coach at Stanford – was hired as head coach in December. Taggart’s familiarity with Harbaugh’s schemes and offense allowed Daniels to bounce ideas off Taggart as he studied the Niners playbook between organized team activities (OTAs), minicamp and summer training camp.
Another point in Daniels' favor as he tries to gain a roster spot is his ability to play the role of an option-style, running quarterback on the scout team this season, mimicking the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, for instance.
As Barrows wrote recently: “(Daniels) gives the 49ers a luxury coaches dream of: He takes up only one roster spot but can fill a number of roles. At the very least, it seems he’d be an asset in the run-up to Sept. 15 and Dec. 8 when the 49ers must prepare for Wilson and the Seahawks.”