Rookie Safety Jaquiski Tartt Prepared to Start for 49ers in Week 8

Check out the best photos of the 2015 San Francisco 49ers rookie class.

Jaquiski Tartt sounded very much like a player who is ready to enter the starting lineup this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

With veteran safety Antoine Bethea being placed on season-ending Injured Reserve last Friday, Tartt appears to be the logical choice to join the San Francisco 49ers starting defense.

The team's unoffical depth chart for Week 8 suggested as much on Tuesdsay: Tartt's name was listed as the starting strong safety.

With a starting role in sight, the second-round draft pick out of Samford (46th overall) will look to build off an impressive second-half showing against the Seattle Seahawks when he replaced Bethea opposite of free safety Eric Reid.

"It was a good experience," Tartt said. "I was able to get my feet wet for the first time. I felt like I did OK."

Tartt recorded eight tackles in defeat, including an eye-catching solo stop of Marshawn Lynch for a 4-yard loss in the fourth quarter. In total, Tartt has amassed 18 tackles and one sack through seven games in the NFL.

The 49ers other main option at safety includes Tartt's high school teammate, Jimmie Ward, who has a key role on defense as the team's slot cornerback. When asked about competing with his friend for larger roles in the final nine games of the regular season, Tartt said he understood the situation at hand.

"Jimmie, he’s like a brother to me," Tartt said. "But at the same time, whatever job we’re called to do, we just have to be ready for it every week."

Both Tartt and Ward will have to showcase their readiness to face the Rams and impressive rookie runner Todd Gurley. Tartt pointed to his early playing time as a dime linebacker in Eric Mangini's defense as evidence of his growing comfort in the NFL. Tartt said he also gained confidence from his numerous practice roles this year.

"I pretty much know what I need to do as far as being at both safeties and the dime ‘backer," the 6-foot-1, 221-pound defensive back said.

Aiding Tartt's development is his willingness to seek out advice from Bethea, Reid and defensive coaches. With Bethea out of the year, Tartt said he's still going to seek out information from the team's 2014 Most Valuable Player.

"He’s been a big help ever since I’ve been here," Tartt said of Bethea, who will have his streak of 119 consecutive starts snapped this weekend. "I’m pretty sure if I need any help he’ll be right there."

Take a look at some of the best pregame photos of the San Francisco 49ers captured by long-time team photographer Michael Zagaris.

Shortly after Tartt spoke with 49ers beat writers, Reid spoke highly of Tartt's development.

"He definitely hits hard," the defensive captain said of his rookie teammate. "He can cover. He has all the things you need to play the position. He's shown that.

"He had a tackle for loss on Marshawn Lynch, which might be the hardest tackle to make in the league."

Tartt did admit that he's experienced a unique transition coming from Samford to San Francisco. Game speed has been the biggest change for the powerful safety.

Another challenge is facing some of the league's most explosive runners on a weekly basis.

Enter Gurley, who is averaging 6 yards per carry and has produced three consecutive 100-yard rushing gaems. The 10th overall pick out of Georgia is currently 12th in the NFL with 442 rushing yards in just four appearances this season.

"He’s a great back," Tartt said. "He’s pretty much like Marshawn, but he hasn’t achieved what Marshawn has achieved. He’s a big back, a very talented back."

Tartt, too, will look to showcase his blossoming talent in what figures to be a critical NFC West clash between two long-time rivals.

When asked about San Francisco's mindset after a one-sided loss to Seattle, Tartt pointed to the locker room's professionalism and focus.

"I feel like it’s been the same feeling every week as far as going out, preparing hard and you want to win," he said.

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