Coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the media on Friday shortly after the 49ers selected Oregon RB LaMichael James with the team's second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.Opening statement**
"Good day, it's a good day today."
Is it nice to have RB LaMichael James on your team?
"It is. It is. I've seen him play up close. I've seen all the things he can do and lost games to his team, large degree of his efforts. There's no need for me to stand up here and defend the pick of LaMichael James. You asked a question, "is it an indictment against [RB] Frank Gore?" My God no. Like I told you yesterday, whatever pick we make on this football team, where our football team is right now, that person is going to come in to compete against, you know with, solid football players, winning football players, 49ers. It's a highly competitive environment. And it's going to get real, real, and it's going to get real, real, real fast for these young guys. Very excited to have LaMichael on our football team. Good day for us today"
Do you plan to do rotating around the running backs because you have a lot of running backs on the roster?
"Everything will be a possibility right now. Trying to have the goal of getting your best 90 football players to training camp. That's one of the things that we're doing. Picking the players that we think are the best available on the board during this draft, is what's important now. Picking football players that are going to make this team a better team. When we get to Sunday we can come out and say, 'you know, we're a better team than we were when this draft started.' We will continue the training this offseason and get to training camp and then we will find out who are best players are and what are best rotational plan is. That will unfold as training camp evolves through."
Jim, now both guys you've taken are 4.3 guys or sub-4.3 guys. How much more can you do offensively when you have these kind of elite guys, one at receiver and one at running back?
"That's to be determined to be honest with you. They definitely have great ability, speed and a lot more to their game than just speed, both of those youngsters that we've added in this draft. They'll get opportunity and they'll have the license to go out and compete and find their role. Whether that's a contributor, starter, how much of a contributor if they are a starter. That will unfold."
LaMichael said that he talked to you guys at the combine and basically didn't hear another word form you until the phone call. Why did you not feel it necessary to interview him several times and bring him in for a visit and look at him eyeball to eyeball?
"We felt like we knew this player. All of the background information, people that we've talked to, the tape we've watched. His reputation as a person and as a football player, is very near impeccable."
Did you get to know him at all Jim the last few years just crossing paths in the college atmosphere?
"No. The first time I really sat down and talked to him and got to know him was at the combine."
When you were playing against him what stood out? Was it the speed. What about him stood out?
"Yes, change of direction, speed, playmaking ability, durability, number of carries, number of yards, number of touchdowns. And there are things that he's going to need to work on in his game. You asked the question about third down? What third down situation where you referring to?"
I don't think I asked that.
"Somebody asked that. Third and short?"
I asked about fumbles.
"Was that you?"
Trent had said a lot of people would look at him as just a third down back. I asked Trent if he agreed with that, would he be limited to that type of role.
"No, I don't think so. I don't think that he'll be limited to just a third down back. You have to take into consideration fourth down, too. This is somebody that has a chance to evolve into a punt returner, a kickoff returner. He's got to work on his hands in those situations, returning punts. That may be X amount of time before he's really able to do that. We've got a pretty darn good returner in Ted Ginn, as it is now, but that'll definitely create a possibility down the road for us. He's proven that he's a multi-down back in our eyes."
His skill sets seem similar to RB Kendall Hunter. Are they, in your mind, kind of similar backs as far as what they do?
"Again, to compare somebody, that would be a favorable comparison. They're both really good. There are others, I think. Similar measurables to a guy like Ray Rice. I think that would be a favorable comparison to both those players. Those players are both good. Explosive, durable, tough, high-carry backs. All of them."
Can we go back to Frank for a second?
I'm not the one saying that it's an indictment on him.
"I thought that's exactly what you said."
Well Trent was saying this isn't an indictment, that's what I was asking. There's no concern with Frank going forward that he hasn't been here for offseason workouts, but that's not a concern because he usually trains in Miami. Is that correct? Just want to clarify that.
"Yes, we've been in contact with Frank. Frank will be here when he's here. He's taking care of some business right now."
Tucked into the competition thing, to ask about the quarterback. Do you consider Alex and Kaepernick absolutely competing for this job? Or like you said, when you drafted Kaepernick that Alex has the lead. Does Alex have the big lead? Where is that quarterback situation?
"Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. That's something that he's earned. They'll be competition at the quarterback position throughout the entire depth chart of our quarterbacks. They'll be competing for the second spot. They'll be competing for the third spot. Alex is always competing. That's just his makeup and his nature. Kaep's the same way. He's always competing. He's always trying to climb. I know Josh [Johnson] is that way. That's the way Scott Tolzien is. That's how all those youngsters are wired. There will be intensecompetition. With all those guys, it's competitive but it's not self-centered, with any of them. They all understand that we win as a team and that kind of competition makes us better as a football team."
Based on Alex's performance last year, you're saying that's what's earned him this?
"Without a doubt. Without a doubt. Alex Smith is our guy. He's our quarterback. Our quarterback will always be a 49er, and that is Alex Smith."
Can you point to a play? Is there a particular memory that stands out for you with LaMichael James when you were standing on the Stanford sidelines and watching him play?
"Yeah, many. Just the unstoppable nature of him at the goal line, and testament to Oregon's offense, but LaMichael was pivotal in that. You could not stop that team once they got inside the 5 yard line. Late in the game in 2010, just how fast he could go 60 yards stands out in my mind. When he started playing as a true freshman, when [former Oregon RB] LeGarrette Blount was their great back and All-American candidate, and he went down, and LaMichael came in and carried the team as a freshman. And he's done that his whole career. The amount of carries that he's had and the production he's had really speaks for itself. There's nothing I can say or any stories I can tell you that are going to speak louder or with higher volume than what he's done as a player on the field."
When you think of goal line backs, most people think of big 245 pound backs. He's not that. Do you see that as a possibility for him?
"Yeah, there's a lot of ways to skin a cat."
Do you think that was an issue last year? Is that when you guys got into the redzone you didn't quite have as many options down there, and that's why you ultimately had to settle for a lot of field goals?
"No. No I don't think that was. Like Trent said, you're always trying to get better as a football team in every area. And we've added two fine players to a roster that was really, if you looked at every position group, you would feel good about the guys that you have at every position group."
You mentioned Ray Rice. Going forward into LaMichael's future, can you see him handling that type of a workload that Ray Rice has?
"Well, if past production is any indication, usually the best predictor of future accomplishments. So, I would say yes."
How much do you think about that 2010 game? It's the last college game you lost.
"From time to time. I have a memory like an elephant. I never forget."
Trent told us last week just how much faith he has in WR Kyle Williams still. And where does he fit in right now, doing all the things he's done previously?
"Absolutely. Continuing to grow. Continuing like all our guys. He's a valued member of our football team. You can make a strong case that we wouldn't have been in the championship game without the efforts of Kyle Williams. Thinking of one play in particular, the great block he made on Alex Smith's run. Right now the way you look at the roster there's a very good possibility that there will be six wide receivers, and that's to be determined. To watch unfold. I could see that happening with the talent we have there now."
And to piggyback off that, how many running backs?
"There would be, you could say that there would be at least five, possibly six."
Do you count RB Rock Cartwright?
"Yeah, with him as the sixth, as a very valued special teams player. Much like [former 49ers LB] Blake Costanzo was last year, filling that role. Now we'd be looking at four running backs right now and one fullback, whereas last year we were three running backs and two fullbacks. All these things are possibilities, are always churning through your head. You're always weighing the perils and merits of all those decisions. It's great to have these options. It's great to have the guys that we have on the team and the guys that we're bringing in. You're just always fighting and building at the same time, and that's what we're doing. I think we're doing a darn good job of it. Trent Baalke's doing a great job. He runs a great draft room. The process has been outstanding. We all have great confidence in him. And it's going well for us, two good days so far. I thought we made a good trade there at the end of the round and we'll see what unfolds tomorrow. But very enthusiastic about our chances tomorrow to keep improving."