SANTA CLARA — The 49ers didn't take a nose tackle with one of their 10 selections in the NFL draft, which prompted general manager Trent Baalke to deliver a post-draft message to defensive line coach Jim Tomsula on Saturday afternoon.
"I walked through and told coach Tomsula to get ready," Baalke said. "He might have to get out and suit up this year."
Don't worry. San Francisco won't be lining up with a 43-year-old former Division II player in the trenches next season.
But if Tomsula, the pride of Catawba College, did go back to the field, it might be fitting.
After all, he would hardly be the only 49ers player changing positions in 2011.
San Francisco's draft kicked off Thursday with first-round pick Aldon Smith, a defensive end at Missouri who will move to outside linebacker in the NFL. On Friday, they used a third-rounder on South Carolina cornerback Chris Culliver, who played more safety than corner in college.
Finally, it ended Saturday with some more of the same as Baalke said the Niners placed an emphasis on versatility.
Appalachian State offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore? The 49ers expect the fifth-round pick to see time at center, a position he hasn't played since high school. Sixth-round pick Bruce Miller from Central Florida? He's a two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive end ... and he'll play fullback, a position he's never played, in San Francisco. Montana State's Mike Person? The seventh-round pick will get a look at center and guard with the Niners after finishing his college career with 34 straight starts at — you guessed it — tackle.
The recently reinstated NFL lockout obviously can't end soon enough for the Niners, whose coaching staff has some tutoring to do.
"We have a lot of confidence, and I do specifically in this coaching staff, to develop these guys," Baalke said. "When you look at the guys, not everybody is going to be used at the collegiate level the way they're going to be used in the NFL. All of these guys that we drafted, we felt very strongly had the traits that we were looking for physically to make the changes that we're going to be asking them to make in our system."
The final day of the draft actually began with a more conventional pick for San Francisco, which grabbed dynamic Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter in the fourth round. The 5-foot-7, 199-pound Hunter, projected to go as early as the second round, was a two-time All-American and finished his career as the fifth-leading rusher in Big 12 Conference history.
Given his size and elusiveness, Hunter figures to offer a change-of-pace style to a backfield that features 217-pound Frank Gore and 233-pound Anthony Dixon.
Baalke believes Hunter could be an every-down back. But he also said the pick wasn't made because the Niners are planning to replace Gore, a free agent after the 2011 season who suffered a season-ending hip fracture last year.
"We look at Frank as a 49er and a guy that we would love to have here for his career," Baalke said. "This isn't a move to try to replace Frank by any stretch. He's a 49er ... This is just a chance for us to add a quality player at a position that we needed another player at."