The 49ers’ selection of South Florida outside linebacker Aaron Lynch in the fifth round of the draft on Saturday did not come without a lot of careful consideration – and a little controversy.
The harshest critic was South Florida head strength and conditioning coach Hans Straub, who expressed his feelings on Twitter (@CoachStraubUSF).
"Thought an organization with 5 Super Bowl titles would have a stricter draft criteria. Clearly, integrity & character are not a priority," Straub wrote.
The post has since been deleted, and Straub has been placed on indefinite leave, according to NFLDraftScout.com. Neither Straub nor South Florida officials immediately responded to inquiries from CSNBayArea.com.
Coincidentally, Straub joined South Florida in January 2013 after spending two years as a top assistant sports performance coach at Stanford. Straub was at the University of San Diego from 2000 to ’06, but did not work with Harbaugh’s football program, according to his bio on the South Florida website.
Lynch was considered a first-round talent while bursting onto the scene with Notre Dame in 2011. He transferred to South Florida after his freshman season and was commonly viewed as unmotivated and a character risk.
On Saturday, the 49ers selected Lynch in the fifth round to cushion his fall on the third day of the draft.
“Everybody’s right,” Lynch said. “I am a first-round talent, but I made some mistakes in my past. And I figured that’s what hurt me a little bit. I’m just so excited that the 49ers came around and got me in the fifth round.”
Lynch visited the 49ers recently and said he hit it off with the coaches in Santa Clara. And 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh spoke with South Florida head coach Willie Taggart, who Jim helped recruit to play for his father at Western Kentucky in the mid-1990s. Taggart also coached on Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford.
“As you expect from Willie, (he) told it exactly the way he saw it and believes it,” Harbaugh said. “And (he) believes that this is a good young man. Needs direction. Needs a good structure around him where he’s got guys, men that he would look up to. That he would have a chance to emulate.
“He feels that he’ll thrive in that kind of environment. Said he was extremely good when Willie and his staff got to South Florida and the structure was in place, and practiced every day, and had very good things to say, and had some good tips on what he thought would be in the best interest of the 49ers, and the best interest of Aaron, as well.”
Harbaugh acknowledged it will take a lot of dedication from the 49ers and Lynch to get him on the right track. But with the investment of a fifth-round draft pick, the 49ers decided the investment was worth the risk.
“And it’s never simple as sometimes you make it out to be. It’s not simple. It’s not, not going to be easy,” Harbaugh said. “But we look forward to the challenge. I look forward to the challenge. I look forward to the challenge of coaching, teaching, mentoring.
“(I) had a very nice talk with his (Lynch’s) mother, as well. And I think there’s a real chance to have a partnership there. Me, on this end over here, and our coaching staff and our football players and team, and from her. Aaron is very close to his mother. You can tell they care about each other very much. He’s got a chance to be successful, we felt.”