Since becoming 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh has shown he’s open to innovation and thinking outside the NFL box.
He’s embraced the Pistol offense and read-option, benched a successful quarterback (Alex Smith) in favor of an untested one (Colin Kaepernick), converted Bruce Miller from standout college defender to fullback and incorporated defensive players such as Isaac Sopoaga, Demarcus Dobbs and Will Tukuafu into the offense as extra blockers.
Now, he’s talking about using quarterback B.J. Daniels, a seventh-round pick from South Florida, all over the field.
Daniels was a four-year starter at South Florida and ranks No. 3 all time in Big East total yardage with 10,501 – 8,433 passing and 2,068 rushing. He threw for 52 touchdowns and rushed for 25.
He’s not the prototypical NFL quarterback at just 5-foot-11½ and 217 pounds, but he’s a fast, elusive runner with a strong arm.
As the 49ers head into spring workouts and training camp this summer, the fight for a job as the No. 3 quarterback could be very competitive. After No. 1 Kaepernick and No. 2 Colt McCoy, Daniels will be going against holdover Scott Tolzien and free-agent signee MarQueis Gray of Minnesota.
Daniels may have the inside track on winning the job, just because of his versatility and athletic skills (he was all-state in Florida in both football and basketball).
“You wonder with the athleticism, just how many ways could he contribute to this team and this roster,” Harbaugh told the Bay Area media after Daniels was selected. “Quarterback position, 217 pounds, 5-11 and a half. Can he be a running back? Can he be a wide receiver? Can he be a kick returner? Can he be a punt returner?
“That idea of being a Swiss Army knife kind of comes up again. And we’ll just see how many things he can be good at. … I think we’re fishing out of a good pool there that he’ll be able to contribute to this football team.”
If Daniels were able to contribute, it would give the Niners a bit more firepower out of their total roster, rather than having the No. 3 QB just standing on the sideline.
After his selection by San Francisco, Daniels obviously is up for doing anything.
Wrote Daniels on Twitter: “Spoke with Coach Harbaugh & Coach (Greg) Roman, they see me playing quarterback & possibly some special teams! Ready to put in work!”
Daniels wore No. 7 at South Florida, but noted on Twitter that he’d have to pick another number in San Francisco – it’s Kaepernick’s. Daniels will wear No. 5.
Aside from his athleticism, Daniels’ experience as a successful leader of his team caught GM Trent Baalke’s attention.
“He’s a playmaker and he won big games on the road,” Baalke told reporters. “He went into Florida State, into Tallahassee, and won a game there. He’s won big games throughout his career there. He’s a fearless competitor and just has a lot of qualities that we liked.”
His ability as a mobile, running quarterback can also give the 49ers defense a challenge during the season on the scout team in preparing to face QBs such as Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Michael Vick or Robert Griffin III.
The Niners’ interest in Daniels as a multi-dimensional player means he’ll have some very busy times in camp this summer.
Harbaugh says Daniels will be considered a quarterback and work and study with the quarterbacks, which he said is a “great way to learn the offense.”
“Simultaneously, he’ll be winning on the other level of learning the offense at the running back position and then also at the wide receiver position because the quarterback has to know what everybody’s doing,” Harbaugh explained.
There's no rest for a Swiss Army knife.