Training camp is the time for low-on-the-depth-chart players to make their case for sticking on the roster come opening day.
As 49ers veterans prepare to report for camp Saturday – with the team’s first full-squad practice scheduled for Sunday – journeymen, undrafted rookies and players coming back from injury will begin to make their push for relevance.
One of those players will be linebacker Marcus Rush.
The former Michigan State standout, a 6-foot-2, 247-pound defensive end in college who went undrafted in 2015, spent all of 2015 on the 49ers’ practice squad.
Now, the door is slightly open for Rush to push his way onto the roster with a strong camp and good reviews over the exhibition season. Starting outside linebacker Aaron Lynch won’t be able to play the first four games because of suspension, and that increases Rush’s chances. He’ll have to outplay one or two others among Corey Lemonier, converted defensive end Tank Carradine and undrafted rookies Jason Fanaika and Lenny Jones to earn a job on the active roster.
Based on his pedigree, Rush has a chance to make some noise in camp.
At Michigan State, Rush was a playmaker, getting in on 163 tackles with 37½ of them for loss. He had 18½ sacks, including 7½ his senior year, and four forced fumbles and 11 passes defensed.
He had a strong training camp last season to earn a spot on the team’s practice squad. He was among the team’s top tacklers in last year’s exhibition games with eight, and had one sack in a strong outing against the Dallas Cowboys. Former head coach Jim Tomsula specifically mentioned Rush at one point last summer as a player who was “coming on,” and, with a year on the practice squad, he could be primed to make another strong push.
Certainly, Rush has shown he’s a driven, hard-working player. He started a school-record 53 games in college and was reported to have improved every season. His pro scouting report for the draft noted his quickness and above-average instincts as assets.
His coach at Michigan State, Mark Dantonio, told a reporter last year that he believes Rush can play in the NFL as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
“I think he’s got some very unique abilities in terms of pass-rushing abilities,” he said. “He’s a playmaker, can really run. He’ll transition to the 3-4.”