SANTA CLARA -- Daniel Bullocks was handed a new player to coach this week.
Tarvarius Moore, 22, a third-round draft pick last year from Southern Mississippi, was a safety in college. But the 49ers spent his entire rookie season attempting to convert him to cornerback, where he started the final two games.
The organization's decision to move him to safety this week clearly met the approval of Moore and his new position coach.
After Jimmie Ward sustained a fractured collarbone last Thursday in practice, the 49ers held a staff meeting. The idea had been talked about in the past, but this time it was made official. Moore would move to safety for the first time since 2017, his final year of college.
His first practice at his new/old position was Tuesday, at the opening of the second week of 49ers organized team activities.
“He’s a guy who doesn’t show his emotion as much,” Bullocks said of relaying the word to Moore of the position change. “When I told him, he just smiled. And after the first practice, I asked him, ‘How did it feel?’ He told me, ‘It’s good to be home.’ He was excited.”
Bullocks is in his third season on the 49ers’ coaching staff and his first with the team’s safeties as his sole responsibility. A 2006 second-round draft of the Detroit Lions, Bullocks’ career was cut short due to a significant knee injury. He entered the college coaching ranks before landing his first NFL job with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016.
Although 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh stopped short of saying Moore’s move to safety was permanent, Bullocks left no doubt where he believes the young player has his best chance for success.
“His best fit I think is free safety,” Bullocks said. “We all evaluated him in college, and we liked him because he was playing free safety.
“We knew he had the measurables, the size, the length, the speed and the cover skills to go play corner, so that’s why we put him at corner his first year. But I think he’s at home now. He’s excited to play free safety. I’m excited to work with him at free safety.”
Shockingly, Moore (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. At his pro day, he ran the 40 in 4.32 seconds. His athleticism and fluid running style, along with the coverage skills he exhibited while lining up over the slot receiver, prompted the 49ers to select him with the No. 95 overall pick. The club spent a full season working to make him a cornerback.
Moore was one of the 49ers’ top special-teams players while seeing action in all 16 games as a rookie. But he did not see any action on defense until a flurry of injuries to the secondary pushed him up the depth chart and into the starting lineup for the final two games.
Now, It is easy to look back on Moore’s rookie season as a year the 49ers wasted on trying to convert a high draft pick to an unfamiliar position. Bullocks said he does not see it that way.
“He understands what the corner is doing in a particular call,” Bullocks said. “He can piece it all together. He knows what the whole back end is doing, and that allows him to play faster.
“There are going to be some hurdles for him learning free safety. You see the game differently. When you’re at corner, you see the game outside-in. When you’re playing safety, you see it in front of you. It’ll take him some time to get back in the groove because he hasn’t played the position in a year.”