Since getting drafted No. 18 overall, there was little doubt Eric Reid would eventually become the 49ers' starting free safety.
Everyone knew when it became official Tuesday except Reid himself.
"It’s obviously good news for me,” Reid said.
San Francisco's defensive coordinator Vic Fangio officially tabbed Reid the starter in Tuesday's media session. When Reid was later asked about it in the locker room, it was the first time he had heard.
But he didn't seem very surprised.
"I’ve been running with the 1s the last couple of days. I guess that’s the goal, but I’ve been trying to get better every day at practice,” Reid said.
Now that it's official, the 49ers will be relying on Reid to replace All-Pro Dashon Goldson, who left as a free agent to sign a lucrative contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Reid will be tested early and often. The 49ers face Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck the first three weeks of the season.
"We’ll be alright because he’s a guy that from high school and on to college, he’s always been a good student and a student of the game," strong safety Donte Whitner said. "That’s why you’re the starting free safety on arguably the best defense as a rookie…and he did it.”
Only two players have seen more reps in the preseason than the LSU alum. Reid's 116 snaps trail Michael Wilhoite's 132 and Perrish Cox's 123. But he will likely be used sparingly - if at all - in Thursday's exhibition finale in San Diego.
"He’s gotten better and better each and every day. He’s had his potholes in there, mistakes here and there. Overall he’s just been stready, he’s grown in the position that’s allowed his ability to come through more and more," Fangio said.
"He’s tackled well in the games which is important for us."
Reid doesn't have the same margin for error as other players. The free safety is often the last line of defense and doesn't benefit from having anyone behind him.
Still, the 49ers believe they have seen enough to make him an important part of a Super Bowl-caliber defense.
"Ever since Day 1, he’s been picking up the system really well. He’s been tremendously physical. He’s tackling well, communicating well. He’s showing some veteran already in him,” Whitner said.
Reid, 21, will likely be thrown at more in the regular season as he becomes an obvious target on an otherwise proven defense. The Vikings tried testing him deep on the first play of Sunday night's game, but Christian Ponder overthrew Greg Jennings.
Through his pregame preparation, Reid had a feeling that play was coming.
“It’s something we always go over in game plans, especially that formation with one receiver on the field. It’s a max-protection scheme, usually teams like to go deep on us, so I was responsible for the post and that’s what I did," Reid said.
The 49ers have stressed play recognition and communication in the early stages of Reid's development.
Whitner, the one who makes and relays all the calls for the secondary, gave Reid those responsibilities at various points in practices to help further his grasp of the system.
“That’s me trying to get him mentally ready," Whitner said. "I want to hear him do it. We need to hear him to do it and it will make us all better. So in practice and walk-throughs, I’ll say ‘Eric in this series I want you to make all the calls from both sides.’"
Fangio said Reid's draft status had little to do with Tuesday's designation, citing Aldon Smith's rise an example. Smith didn't earn his playing time as rookie until his fourth preseason game. A strong performance against the Chargers helped him get on the field as a nickel pass rusher while Parys Haralson was still the starter.
"I think everybody has to come in and earn their position," Fangio said.
"I’ve been around too many situations at times where guys have been giving something and they don’t learn to appreciate it or have the fight to go earn something, and it becomes too easy. So I think we’ve done a good job at setting a precedent with that."
The 49ers are hoping three seasons in the SEC will aid Reid's learning curve. If he performs like he has in practice, then the transition should be smooth.
"It’s just like practice, just different guys out there with different uniforms,” Reid said.