Jaquiski Tartt Leans on Jimmie Ward, 49ers Veteran Safeties

Jaquiski Tartt has a lot of people looking out for him these days, even teammates in the San Francisco 49ers defensive backfield.

The team's second-round draft pick out of Samford has been fortunate to learn from two established veteran safeties, plus a childhood friend and high school teammate.

Enter Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea and Jimmie Ward. The first two players represent the entrenched starting safety duo for the 49ers defense. Ward, on the other hand, grew up with Tartt in Mobile, Ala., and has been an added mentor for Tartt in his first month as a professional football player.

In fact, Ward gave his close friend some valuable tips prior to recent Organized Team Activities.

"Really, it was just get in the playbook," said Tartt, who was selected as an FCS All-American in his senior campaign. "That's the only thing that could keep me behind - that's the playbook."

Tartt's studying is multiplied these days. In addition to lining up behind Reid at free safety, the rookie is also picking up strong safety, the spot manned by San Francisco's reigning team MVP, Bethea.

Tartt said he's been trying to soak up as much knowledge as he can from his veteran teammates. The lessons begin in the classroom and extend to the practice fields.

When asked what the 6-foot-1, 221-pound safety has picked up the most from the 49ers starting duo, Tartt offered a quick response: "How serious they are about the game."

"When they walk into the meeting room, you can just tell from their faces that they are serious about the game."

Tartt, who finished his collegiate career with 277 tackles, six interceptions and 20 pass breakups, said he's comfortable approaching anyone in the team's defensive back meeting room for advice. The sharing of information begins with respected secondary coach Tim Lewis.

"He's a very smart coach," Tartt said. "There's a lot of knowledge in the room. You can talk to anybody and they pretty much know what they're doing, and they'll help you out."

Tartt's understanding of Eric Mangini's new-look defensive system has been tested this offseason. Besides having to execute play calls for the first time, Tartt and his fellow reserve defenders are having to line up rapidly to counteract the quickness in which the 49ers have been snapping the ball in practice.

In the rookie's estimation, the quick turnaround in between plays is helping both sides of the ball prepare for training camp and the preseason.

"You most definitely have to focus on every play and try to be ahead of the offense, but I'm pretty used to it," Tartt said. "My offense in college, it's not the same, but they used to do an up-tempo style of offense. I'm kind of used to it."

Speed is one thing. Volume of a new defensive playbook is a whole different beast.

So while Tartt does his best to try and adapt to life as a professional player, he sounded optimistic about his on-field talent being able to transition from small-school college football to the rough-and-tough nature of the NFC West.

Tartt was clear in assessing how his style of play can be viewed by outsiders.

"I love to come in the box, but I can cover the deep middle of the field, too," he said.

Tartt's transition will be one of the many fascinating storylines for first-year players on the 49ers roster. Making matters more intruiging is the fact that Tartt has a unique challenge to overcome in his life away from the facility.

"My boy Jermaine Whitehead, he's a safety from Auburn," Tartt began, "He talks in his sleep. He'll be talking about random stuff in his sleep. It was funny. I thought he was up, but he was actually asleep."

It sounds like all of the rookies are coping with their initial experiences in their own ways.

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