SANTA CLARA -- Defensive lineman Kerry Hyder has someone very important in his corner as he fights for a spot on the 49ers’ regular-season roster.
Kris Kocurek was Hyder’s defensive line coach for three seasons with the Detroit Lions. Kocurek is the main reason the 49ers were attracted to Hyder and signed him to a one-year contract in the offseason.
“Kocurek’s been talking about him forever,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “I would equate the man crush I have on Ronnie Blair to Kocurek’s man crush with Kerry.”
Hyder entered the NFL with the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie in 2014. At Texas Tech and early in his NFL career he played defensive tackle before Kocurek recommended a switch to defensive end.
In 2016, Hyder appeared in all 16 games and registered a team-leading eight sacks for the Lions. But his career was derailed a year later with a torn Achilles sustained during the preseason. Kocurek went to Miami for the 2018 season. Hyder played last year with the Dallas Cowboys.
Now, they’re back together.
“He's been there for me,” Hyder said. “He's been coaching me up for a long time, so I guess we’re comfortable with each other.”
Kocurek is a high-energy coach who gives his voice a workout any time he is on the practice field. His coach style, personality and passion are good fits for Hyder.
“He’s the same person every single day,” Hyder said of Kocurek. “He’s going to give you 110 percent. He’s always shown me that, that he wants the best for you. So you got to take coaching and understand that he wants the best for you and the best for the team.”
Hyder said he grew familiar with the 49ers’ defensive line last season, and is now intent on supplying elements of his game to strengthen the unit.
“Whenever I watched them on TV, man, it was a sight to see,” he said. “When you get around a group like this, you try to figure out what you can add to the group.”
Hyder’s versatility and willingness to do whatever’s best for the team are the same qualities that have drawn Saleh to Blair.
Hyder and Blair are both capable of playing anywhere on the defensive line, but their best chances of helping the 49ers would appear to be as edge-rushers behind Dee Ford and Nick Bosa. Blair is working back from a torn ACL that ended his 2019 season in November. Saleh draws comparisons between both players.
“You can see why a coach can get comfortable with a person like him (Hyder), because they do things the right way,” Saleh said. “They work their tails off. They'll get dirty. They're smart.
“You can ask them to do a lot of things and they're not just there to fill a void, because they're going to go in and they're going to produce. So, you see a lot of similarities there.”