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Steve Spurrier: Bruce Ellington ‘Can Have Outstanding NFL Career’

Posted Aug 7, 2014

To examine the San Francisco 49ers 12-man NFL Draft class, 49ers.com checked in with a college coach of each pick. We begin our series with a fourth-round selection from South Carolina.

To examine the San Francisco 49ers 12-man NFL Draft class, 49ers.com checked in with a college coach of each pick. We continue our series with...

Steve Spurrier, a punter and a backup quarterback for the 49ers from 1967 to ‘75, fell one season shy of joining the organization’s 10-year wall.

Now entering his 10th season as head coach at the University of South Carolina, Spurrier’s ties to San Francisco are only strengthening.

He keeps sending college prospects westward.

The 49ers selected Gamecocks in three of the last four drafts: cornerback Chris Culliver (2011, third round), running back Marcus Lattimore (’13, fourth round) and wide receiver Bruce Ellington (’14, fourth round).

“A lot of wonderful memories out there,” the aw-shucks, ol’ ball coach said. “A lot of great teammates from back then – but we’ve got quite the pipeline now.”

Ellington, the latest to make it through, helped Spurrier contend in the SEC for three seasons, starting in 2011. But as the coach explained to us over the phone from Columbia, S.C., his 5-foot-9, 197-pound wideout was no cinch to play football at the collegiate ranks, let alone in the NFL. 

First Impressions
“We tried to recruit Bruce out of high school,” Spurrier said. “He was sort of a ‘Wildcat’ quarterback back then. They snapped it to him, and he would just run all over the place. Every play seemed like a scramble play, but he led his team to a state championship. Of course, he loved playing basketball more than football at the time, but then I think he learned after a couple of years here that football was the sport he could play professionally. He majored in that the last year here.

“It was after his second year when Marcus had a class with him. Marcus and maybe a couple of other football players told him, ‘Man, you need to come play with us. You’ll have a lot more fun playing football than you have been playing basketball.’ So he came out and played.”

College Improvements
“His route running and understanding the coverage just from the experience of playing three years here,” Spurrier said. “We thought he had the potential, once we got him in our system and running routes consistently well because he had all the physical talent.”

Greatest Strengths
“Excellent hands – I can’t remember a drop,” Spurrier said. “Maybe he had one somewhere, but I can’t remember one. The other thing is, when he started playing, we went 11-2 every year he played. Sort of like (Jadeveon) Clowney. Clowney didn’t do a lot this year, but we went 11-2 with him. Those guys have had a tremendous run.”

Big Moment
“We beat Florida, 19-14, here this year, and we only had one touchdown,” Spurrier said. “It was a 4th-and-4 play and (quarterback) Connor Shaw rolled out and Bruce was a clear-out guy, but they had the flat guy covered up. Connor sort of just threw it up into the air, and Bruce adjusted his route, their ‘DB’ got twisted around, and that was the lone touchdown of the game for us, so it was a big one. 

“He made a bunch of other big catches at crucial times during his career here: a touchdown catch that beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl; two against Wisconsin in our last bowl game – and threw a touchdown pass. I look for coach Harbaugh to put in a reverse pass with him throwing the ball. He’s an excellent passer.”

NFL Expectations
“After having such an outstanding junior season, he wanted to come out early and enter the NFL Draft, which we thought was a good idea,” Spurrier said. “He’s just a tremendously well-conditioned athlete. He can run all day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him tired. He’s first in line. He and Lattimore are two of the best as far as conditioning. He can have an outstanding NFL career.”

Coach's Advice
“Oh, I don’t give a lot of advice. I just hope he likes it out there. We’re certainly happy he’s going with the Niners with Lattimore and Culliver. We were proud to send them to San Francisco, a team that’s knocking on the Super Bowl every year.”


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