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Michael Wilhoite Q&A: Filling in for Bowman

Posted Jul 25, 2014

Linebacker Michael Wilhoite knows you can't "take over" for NaVorro Bowman, but he's ready if called upon to fill in.

You asked, and Michael Wilhoite answered.

Wilhoite, who is currently slotted as the starting inside linebacker next to Patrick Willis, according to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, started two games last season.

Instead of filling in for Willis, Wilhoite’s goal this season is to step up in place of the 49ers other All-Pro inside linebacker, NaVorro Bowman.

Here are a few of the #AskWilhoite questions we collected on Twitter. We’ll have similar opportunities with our 1-on-1 guests each week. Follow @49ers, tweet at us when the guest is announced and your question may be answered.

WILHOITE: I’m definitely not “taking over” for Bowman. You can’t take over for him or Patrick Willis. Those two guys are the best in the business and will go down as some of the greatest ever. You could throw Aldon (Smith) in there if you’re talking about outside linebackers. This could be one of the greatest linebacker groups overall.

It’s special. Never would I want to take over or replace them. I just want to do whatever I can do to help this team win while Bowman is sidelined. When he comes back, I understand that my role will change and I’ll adjust.

You can’t ever replace Bowman, but you can learn from him and be ready to go while he’s out.

WILHOITE: Yes, just being a better linebacker overall. When I say that, I mean seeing things better. When you see things better, you’re able to play faster, be more physical and have more fun in the game.

It’s hard to nail down one specific element. The thing about linebacker and why I think linebacker in the NFL is one of the toughest positions is because you have to be able to play the run, you have to cover and you have to assist teammates with their assignments. There are a lot of things that go into improving your game.

WILHOITE: I talked a little about my goals already, but the competition is good. Every year I have been here, it’s been very competitive.

With Willis and Bowman, we knew those guys were the starters and somebody was competing for those third and fourth spot. Now, there are four of us competing for one spot. I think the competition will bring the best out of all of us. That’s why we’re all here.

I’m looking forward to it. This is the NFL, and competition is what it’s all about. That’s what you expect.

WILHOITE: The thing I like the best is having control of everything.

I think playing linebacker is kind of like playing quarterback. You’re working with the safeties, the defensive line, just like the quarterback is working with the offensive line and receivers.

As a linebacker, you’re doing so many different things. As a corner, you’re usually playing coverage and don’t have as big of role against the run. As a defensive lineman, you’re not usually dropping into coverage. The linebackers will be dropping into coverage or trying to stop the run, based on what we see from the offense. We don’t know what we’re doing until we see what we get from the offense.

You have to be able to read and react. The faster you can do that, the better linebacker you’ll be.

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