John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan knew they could trust South Carolina coach Will Muschamp to level with them.
As the 49ers prepared for the 2019 draft, Lynch and Shanahan had a question about wide receiver Deebo Samuel. The 49ers were impressed with Samuel after spending a week with him at the Senior Bowl. The 49ers’ decision-makers wanted to know if Samuel was just turning it on for a week to make a good impression with an NFL team.
So they turned to the man who spent the three previous seasons with Samuel.
“I said, ‘No, that’s exactly the kind of player you’re going to get,’” Muschamp said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.
The 49ers selected Samuel in the second round of last year’s draft. And they are happy they did.
Last month, the 49ers targeted another one of Muschamp’s players, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, with the No. 14 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
“Will Muschamp is a guy that I really grew to know last year and the process with Deebo Samuel, and one thing Kyle and I talked to him, I think we talked to him a couple of days before the draft,” Lynch said. “We both were just struck I think a couple months later how accurately he just depicted exactly who Deebo was both in his strengths and the limited weaknesses that he had. He was extremely honest, so Will was tremendous.”
Samuel had a strong rookie season for the 49ers. He caught 57 passes for 802 yards in the regular season. Samuel set the Super Bowl record for rushing yards from a wide receiver with three attempts for 53 yards.
So what could Muschamp have possibly revealed as a negative about Samuel?
“You’re going to need to stay on him about his weight in the offseason,” Muschamp said he told the 49ers.
“Of course, he shows up a little bit overweight and (49ers receivers coach) Wes Welker takes him out for some 6 a.m. runs to get him back in shape. But I said, ‘You’re going to get a guy who’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands.’ He’s a receiver, but he’s got a big lower body. He runs through contact. He plays almost like a running back. They utilized him a lot in that manner.”
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
Muschamp said he is upfront with his players when they come to South Carolina that he is going to be an open book with NFL teams. He will share the good and the bad.
“I tell our players all the time, I’m going to be honest. I’m not going to lie for you,” Muschamp said. “If you’re not a good guy, if you’re not a dependable guy, I’m going to tell them those things. I try to be as honest as I can be, so I develop the trust in the GMs and the head coaches and the assistant coaches and the scouts, so they know what kind of player they’re getting from South Carolina.”
The report Muschamp shared with NFL teams on Kinlaw was flattering. Kinlaw worked hard to improve every season he played at South Carolina. He handles hard coaching. And, most impressive, Kinlaw overcame a difficult young life of homelessness and upheaval to get where he is today. His main source of motivation is to provide a secure future for his daughter, Muschamp said.
“(He’s) a guy who’s not let his circumstances define who he is,” Muschamp said of Kinlaw.