NBC Sports

How 49ers rookie Hufanga has impressed Shanahan this season

NBC Sports

SANTA CLARA -- Jaquiski Tartt’s knee injury opened the door for 49ers’ rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga.

And Hufanga took advantage of his opportunity to the point that Tartt is not assured of returning to the starting role he’s held with the 49ers since the beginning of the 2017 season.

“I like 'Huff' a lot,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Hufanga. “I think he's played well.

“No, Tartt doesn't automatically get the starting position. We're not sitting here trying to replace Tartt, either.”

Tartt, who signed a one-year contract with the 49ers in the offseason, has started each of the past 45 games in which he appeared. Hufanga’s play has seemingly set him up to be the team’s long-term starter at strong safety.

The 49ers on Wednesday opened the practice window for Tartt, who spent the past three games on injured reserve with a bone bruise of his knee. Tartt is expected to be available to face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in Week 11, but his role has yet to be determined.

“I think Tartt’s played at a high level for us for a number of years, can do a bunch of things,” Shanahan said. “But even before he got hurt, we were trying to get 'Huff' in there, too, because of what 'Huff' has brought to the table.

“But we'll see how the week goes this week. I’ve got to see where Tartt is at, but I expect them both to play if Tartt’s healthy.”


The 49ers selected Hufanga in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He was named the 2020 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after his final season at USC.

In the three games with Tartt on injured reserve, Hufanga registered 12 tackles, including one tackle for a loss, a quarterback hit and pass defensed.

“I just like how he doesn't hesitate on anything,” Shanahan said.

RELATED: 49ers open practice windows for Tartt and Greenlaw

Shanahan pointed out a play Hufanga made to defend a pass on a third-and-5 situation Monday night in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams. Hufanga broke up a Matthew Stafford pass intended for running back Darrell Henderson.

“It looks like he's not just thinking about that on game day,” Shanahan said. “It looks like he decided on Wednesday how he's going to play. You can see it in everything he does and there's just no hesitation in his game.

“And that's what I want to see, 11 guys out there not hesitating and flying around.”

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast