49ers' first-time DC Ryans adjusting well to new role


SANTA CLARA — Like John Lynch before him, DeMeco Ryans has surrounded himself with experienced people as he stepped into his new position. 

Ryans had been the 49ers inside linebackers coach for three seasons and defensive quality control one year prior to being named the team’s defensive coordinator. 

It could be deemed an incredible challenge for someone who had been on the field as a player just five short years ago, but three weeks into training camp everything is going according to plan. 

Ryans brought in former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher as senior defensive assistant/run game specialist. Cory Undlin who is the 49ers defensive pass game/secondary specialist spent 2020 as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator. Both have been impressed by how smoothly Ryans has transitioned. 

“I would say this, he doesn’t need much,” Undlin said. “I was with him when he was a player in Philly for that one year. And I’m just here if he’s got a question or anything, I’m going to give him everything I got just to assist him. He’s got this system wired. 

“I’m still making sure I’ve got the finer points but as we start game planning we’ll see how it goes but he doesn’t need much help. 

The 49ers have yet to suit up for a game but Ryan’s reputation as a player’s coach are echoed throughout team headquarters. Having worked closely with Fred Warner for three seasons he knows the the All-Pro “quarterback” of the defense has his back. 


“Just having a chance to work with DeMeco has been great,” Bettcher said. “This is a guy that’s not a good communicator, he’s an elite communicator. He has elite energy when he comes into the building.”

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Bettcher and Undlin are not the only experienced coaches on the staff. Linebackers coach Johnny Holland has 25 years of coaching experience and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has been the highest decibel level on the field for 12 seasons. 

Ryans may have one of the most experienced supporting casts in the league. His defensive scheme is not a reboot, however. Ryans has already found ways for his squad to play faster and more aggressively. Bettcher sees a reflection of that mood when he’s around the facility. 

“When you walk in the building, you can feel him,” Bettcher said. “He might be three rooms away but you can just feel it and it’s an honest positive genuine feel that you get. I’m excited to be here with him and on the journey.” 

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