Last season was a strange one for the 49ers’ third-string quarterbacks. Over the course of the preseason and regular season, San Francisco added and then dropped Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, B.J. Daniels, John Skelton and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Will it be the same thing in 2014?
As the 49ers get ready to enter rookie minicamp, organized team activities, full-squad minicamp and training camp in July, San Francisco is set with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert as its Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks. But the No. 3 QB job will be up for grabs between Bethel-Thompson, who was brought back, and undrafted free agent Kory Faulkner of Southern Illinois.
Bethel-Thompson, who played at UCLA and Sacramento State, has played in the Arena Football League, United Football League and has been with the 49ers, Dolphins and Vikings of the NFL, but has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game. Like Faulkner, Bethel-Thompson was an undrafted free agent, in 2011.
Unless the 49ers pick up a veteran later this offseason – always a chance, given the carousel of No. 3 QBs last season – either Bethel-Thompson or Faulkner will emerge as the team’s emergency-situation QB for 2014.
Faulkner is a 6-foot-3, 229-pounder who threw 18 touchdown passes against just four interceptions and averaged 222 yards passing per game last season at Southern Illinois, where he missed three games with a broken finger. He also picked up 283 yards rushing on 60 carries for two TDs.
Faulkner reportedly caught the eye of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh when Harbaugh went to Illinois to watch the pro-day workout of Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo (who eventually was drafted by New England).
“Coach Harbaugh saw me throwing side-by-side next to Jimmy and liked what he saw,” Faulkner told Tom Weber of the Southern Illinois website, SIUSalukis.com. “He asked for some tape and really liked my tape.”
Harbaugh then later flew to St. Louis for a one-on-one meeting with Faulkner. It was then Harbaugh told Faulkner that San Francisco was interested in him.
“I respect Coach Harbaugh greatly and built a great relationship with him,” Faulkner told Weber. “He was honest with me the whole time on what their plans were. They’re investing in me.”
After San Francisco completed its draft and announced its free-agent signings, Harbaugh told reporters that Faulkner ran a spread offense at Southern Illinois and took snaps in both the shotgun and from under center.
“He’s got a good arm” Harbaugh said. “He’s smart. Strong guy. Got a good-boned guy. And tough.”
In three seasons as the Salukis’ starter, Faulkner threw for 5,347 yards and 34 TDs. Now he’s eager for the chance to earn a roster spot.
“God’s given me the ability and opportunity to make my dream come true,” Faulker said. “I’m going to compete and be the best player I can be.”