Glenn Dorsey played in a 3-4 defensive alignment in four of his final five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, and he will be asked to do the same thing in San Francisco.
So why is Dorsey, whom the Chiefs drafted fifth overall in 2008, starting from scratch? Isn't the first line of defense on one 3-4 base alignment similar to the next?
"Oh, God, no," 49ers position coach Jim Tomsula said. "It's not always what you do – it's how you do it."
Coming up on three weeks in training camp, Dorsey is learning how. And it says something about the cohesion of Tomsula's group that Dorsey's other teacher, Ian Williams, is also his main competition for playing time.
"He has been helping me out with the techniques, with the terminology and just day-to-day stuff," Dorsey said of third-year 49ers nose tackle. "Like if I need a ride somewhere, stuff like that. So he's the probably the person I am closest with on the team."
Tomsula stressed the fact that both Dorsey and Williams have the ability to – and actually will – play the defensive tackle spots, which veterans Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have locked down in recent seasons.
For now, there's more to learn at the nose tackle spot.
Because it lines up over or in between the opposition's right guard, center and left guard, a greater grasp of technique is required. The nose tackle's reads – what he sees from said offensive lineman and how he reacts – are also more involved.
"It's been challenging. I have been doing one thing for the last four, five years," Dorsey said, "and I come in and it's new techniques, new terminology and the way they do things here."
The LSU product did say that he's progressing every day, and that development will be tested before family, friends and former teammates in Kansas City on Friday. The 49ers visit the Chiefs for their second preseason game.
"I want to play well," Dorsey said.
If Tomsula's reviews are any indication, his new pupil will.
"He's the full package," the coach said. "He's been in the NFL for five years, but all the techniques and the things we're doing here, it's all new to him. So the way he's picking it up is really – I'm just really excited for him."