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49 in 49: S Tony Jefferson


We wrap up Big 12 week of our 49 in 49 pre-draft series with a look at a playmaking safety from Oklahoma.

Height has been a hot topic when discussing the potential NFL impact of former Oklahoma star Tony Jefferson.

The hard-hitting safety checks in at 5-foot-11, 213 pounds and has shown the ability to be one of college football's best at his position. But as he's gone throughout the pre-draft process, Jefferson has already had to answer many questions about his frame.

"Lack of height? You could look at the other safeties in the NFL right now that are successful," Jefferson said. "You can see height doesn't really have a big factor in the NFL. I feel like if you're physical and you're in the right position, you can make a play on any receiver."

Jefferson is one of the top few prospects in a deep safety class who projects to be a mid-round pick. Should San Francisco select the former Sooner, he could compete to join Donte Whitner, another smaller-statured safety who likes to lower his shoulder and make big hits. In fact, Whitner and Jefferson's role model, Ed Reed, both feature similar body builds as the NFL prospect.

Jefferson was used as both a free safety and strong safety during his three-year career at Oklahoma, but said he was more comfortable as a strong safety playing near the line of scrimmage.

"I like being in the box a lot," Jefferson said. "But being deep is pretty cool, too. You get to get those overthrown balls and big hits and stuff like that."

Now that Dashon Goldson is gone via a free agent contract signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, perhaps the 49ers will take a look at Jefferson to compete with newly-signed Craig Dahl at the free safety position.

A look at Jefferson's college game tape reveals an active and athletic player who often made quick reads and bolted toward to the line of scrimmage to make big tackles and be a force in the run game. In all, he finished 2012 with 119 tackles to lead Oklahoma en route to being named a second-team All-American.

Jefferson put together his career year despite suffering a high ankle sprain in the second game of the year, an injury that lingered with him for the rest of the year.

"I wouldn't say I was 100 percent throughout the season, but I wouldn't ever think about even sitting out a game," Jefferson said. "I couldn't let my team down. I know they needed me. Being a leader on the team, you've got to be able to sacrifice, not just for yourself but for your teammates, your brothers."

The Southern California native arrived in Norman, Okla., after a whirlwind college recruitment that included a late change of heart from UCLA to Oklahoma, where he would play alongside good friend and receiver Kenny Stills. Jefferson earned a role as a starter during his freshman season and decided to leave school a year early, announcing his decision with Stills in January.

"It was kind of a last-minute decision," Jefferson said. "A tough decision, leaving what I'm leaving behind as far as my teammates, the institution, the amount of playing time I got there my freshman and sophomore year. It was a pretty rough feeling."

Just as he got a quick start to his college career, Jefferson is hoping to latch on with a team and make an impact in his rookie year.

"Hopefully I can keep that trend going," Jefferson said. "I plan on doing the right things to prepare to be able to play."

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