After sitting out his entire rookie season, 49ers defensive lineman Cornelius “Tank” Carradine is eager to make some plays in 2014.
But the former Florida State standout isn’t counting 2013 as a wasted year. Far from it. Though he couldn’t play while recovering from a knee injury in his senior season with the Seminoles, Carradine was able to learn a lot from veterans Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, the 49ers’ defensive ends in San Francisco’s 3-4 scheme.
“I just tried to follow their lead,” Carradine recently told Taylor Price of 49ers.com. “Even though I wasn’t out there playing, I was able to pick it up mentally. I got to see how to be a pro by how they did things. Now I know how to prepare for practice, prepare in the offseason and get ready for camp and things like that.”
The addition of Carradine to the 49ers defense will be one of the team’s biggest additions this coming season. Carradine – who could spell both Smith and McDonald – will help give the 49ers a deep defensive line corps that also could include nose tackles Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Quinton Dial and Demarcus Dobbs.
Carradine, who had 16½ sacks in two seasons at Florida State, was considered one of the best pass rushers in the nation his senior season – and a probably first-round pick -- until his knee injury.
The 49ers were able to get him in the second round, and now it will be as if the team is getting a first-round pick to add to its defensive line rotation – and a possible successor to Smith whenever Smith decides to retire.
Carradine, who’s 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, says he’s now fully healthy, and expects that his speed and quickness will allow him to put pressure on quarterbacks, even while rushing from an interior spot.
“I’m going to be able to show I’m a speed guy,” Carradine told Price. “It’s different because you’re taking more of a double (two blockers). It’s a little different but it’s something I can adjust to. I’ll be rushng on the inside more, but it gives me an advantage. You put a speed guy, who is a little bigger now, on a guard, it’s good for him to rush.”
Carradine had minor surgery in February to eliminate scar tissue that developed after his earlier knee surgery. Now, he says he’s completely healthy. And head coach Jim Harbaugh has seen a difference in him and is hoping for big things from Carradine.
“He looks like a different guy now since that procedure,” Harbaugh said recently. “Just with what we saw when he did practice with our football team and now this procedure that’s been done. I’m even more excited. I think he’s going to have a great offseason and look forward to his progress very, very much.
“Expectations will be very high.”