Mike Purcell takes up a lot of space at 6-foot-3 and 304 pounds, but sometimes it’s hard to see him.
The former undrafted free agent from Wyoming in 2013 has been mostly overlooked in the offseason discussions about the 49ers defensive line, lost behind bigger names such as Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial, Darnell Dockett, Tank Carradine, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Arik Armstead, among others.
But based on his play in the Niners’ first exhibition game this past weekend, Purcell is making a very loud statement that he deserves a role on the roster in 2015.
Purcell, who’s best position is nose tackle in the 49ers’ 3-4 alignment, made six tackles in the Saturday night game vs. the Houston Texans.
Purcell was a key to San Francisco’s goal-line stand in the first quarter when he shed blockers and got into the Houston backfield to drop running back Alfred Blue for a loss, then pounded Kenny Hilliard for no gain.
“The way Michael played, you feel great for him,” 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula told reporters. “He’s got a lot of ability. You’re rooting for him. You’re pulling for him, and it excites you.”
Williams, the 49ers’ projected starter at nose tackle, said it’s no surprise Purcell played well in the game. He’s been performing all spring and in personal workouts. Purcell, who was standing his ground against the Texans’ offensive line, displayed impressive strength, shedding blockers and getting consistent push.
“He’s always been strong – it was in his blood,” Williams told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “But he’s been working his butt off. I was training with him this summer and he was always pushing himself to the max. I’m excited for the future for him.”