Niners load up with 8th-round prospects

Erickson's 1st minicamp will have 18 undrafted FAs

The 49ers put almost as much emphasis on the "eighth round" as they do on the rest of the NFL Draft. The team spent most of this week looking at and talking with draft-eligible players who didn't get selected over the weekend, and the Niners ultimately landed several prospects who have a chance to legitimately challenge for roster berths this summer. The Niners signed 18 of these players and will get their first look at them and the team's 7 draft picks in a 3-day minicamp that begins Friday.

Among the top names the Niners signed are Miami punter Freddie Capshaw, Washington State wide receiver Mike Bush, San Jose State tight end/long snapper Marcus Helfman, South Carolina State defensive end LaKendrick Jones, Stanford guard Greg Schindler and UCLA punter/kicker Nathan Fikse.

Bush is a big, intriguing 6-foot-6 prospect the Niners will take a long look at. Capshaw was one of the nation's top punters and could challenge incumbent Bill LaFleur. Fikse will provide competition for second-year kicker Jeff Chandler, while Jones, Helfman and Schindler all have value and potential that could make them stick.

"In any draft, you can't satisfy all your needs and all your wants," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "We filled out our roster, but there wasn't a particular emphasis on one position over another."

Last year, undrafted free-agent linebackers Frank Strong (USC) and Brandon Moore (Oklahoma) both made the team, and offensive lineman Austin Lee spent a good portion of the season on the practice squad.

Several of the recent signees are at least practice-squad candidates.

The Niners also signed wide receivers Bosley Allen of Sam Houston State and Troy Mason of UNLV, running back Allan Amundson of Oregon, tackles Ben Archibald of BYU and Jason Jowers of Wisconsin, center Ben Nowland of Auburn, guard Shane Riggs of North Carolina State, cornerback Joselio Hanson of Texas Tech, safety Kelly Hardy of East Carolina and linebackers Marcus Reese of UCLA, Raymond Wells of Arizona and Victor White of Winston-Salem.

Those undrafted hopefuls - along with the Niners' seven-player draft class of 2003 and the rest of the returning roster already signed for the upcoming season - will get their first look at coach Dennis Erickson's new playbook during the three-day minicamp, which features two practices on Friday and Saturday and one practice Sunday which will be followed by the team's annual endurance "beep" test.

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