- To examine the San Francisco 49ers 12-man NFL Draft class, 49ers.com checked in with a college coach of each pick. We continue our series with...*
Kenneth Acker arrived at Southern Methodist University in 2010 as a three-star high school recruit. Acker, a native of Portland, Ore., played wide receiver and quarterback in high school and starred on the basketball team. Acker eventually settled on playing cornerback in college. He played in eight games as a freshman, primarily as a kick-off return man. Acker developed into SMU's top cover corner by his senior season, during which he successfully matched up with Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Acker went on to become a fifth-round draft pick of the 49ers. He is now competing for playing time with a young and hungry group of defensive backs. So how did Acker become a detailed technician at his position despite being so raw coming into college?
We turned to SMU secondary coach Derrick Odum, who had a shotgun seat for Acker's college development.
First Impressions"He was a really raw player when he came out of high school," Odum said. "He played everything in high school and never really got good at any of it, as far as mastering it. When we just focused on him being a corner and taught him the technique he needed to play at the corner spot, he started using his length and his quick feet. He really started to flourish and he understood how important technique was to his position. It gave him an advantage right away. He really worked on the little nuances of playing the corner spot."
"It really started to click for him in his senior year," Odum said. "We would practice early, at 7 a.m. He was a punt returner as well for us and those guys had to get in earlier. In that group, he was always the first guy catching balls. And in Dallas, it can be kind of chilly at 7 a.m. in December. He was out there catching balls every day and he was setting a good example for the younger guys of what it took to be a professional. He was showing them that you have to come in and get your work in to have a productive practice. He did that consistently, especially his senior year, by taking ownership and being a leader."
"He always wanted to cover the top guy each week," Odum said. "This past year it was against Mike Evans. He really did a nice job against him. They showed one highlight during Evans' draft highlight package and it was against us. It was a touchdown catch on a long drag route. Johnny (Manziel) was being Johnny, scrambling around and threw it up. Evans started outside the numbers on one side of the field and he ended up on the other sideline. That was a long way for Kenneth to chase him down, but other than that, he locked him up that day. There were a bunch of jump balls and Kenneth played Evans' hands real well."
NFL Expectations"I definitely saw that he had some things that would really project well to the NFL," Odum said. "If he could keep it together for four years and develop, he had a great chance of being drafted. He had great ball skills and he was really competitive. He was long. He's a 6-foot corner and he had all the athletic attributes needed to succeed."
Coach's Advice"He has to do a great job of going to get a position in the NFL," Odum said. "I told him, 'You belong now. Don't feel like it's bigger than you.' I don't want that to even creep into his mind. He belongs. Now he has to go take it. He has to do all the extra film work – get his nose stuck in that playbook. Know it inside and out, so he's a master at it and that will give him the best chance to succeed. All the rookies are starting at the same spot and he has to separate himself. The way you do that is really taking ownership in the position and being a true professional, being in there early and staying late – that's what I told him."