49ers Announce Deal for Undersized Blocker With Ties to S.F. Super Bowl Winner

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Getty Jesse Sapolu (center) prepares to hike the football during the NFC title game versus the Dallas Cowboys on January 17, 1993.

The San Francisco 49ers are officially bringing back some University of Hawaii representation on their offensive line — a first since the days of legendary franchise blocker Jesse Sapolu.

As announced by the franchise on Friday, May 12, the 49ers have signed their entire rookie class including the undrafted players. And one of them? Ilm Manning of the Rainbow Warriors, who again shares the Hawaii connection with the two-time Pro Bowler and four-time Super Bowl-winning center/guard.

Manning will receive nearly $2.7 million from the 49ers, per Over the Cap. That includes $898,333 annually, but it does not include guaranteed money.

Is Manning Capable of Moving up the Roster?

Manning didn’t hear his name called during the 2023 NFL draft. He immediately found an opportunity at the place where Sapolu helped anchor some of the league’s most dominating lines for a high-powered West Coast Offense during the 1980s.

Manning comes in at 6-foot-4 but has a thin build at 295 pounds. However, he became a steady athletic presence in the trenches for the ‘Bows. CBS Sports praised his athleticism in their scouting report of the tackle.

“Ilm Manning is a really athletic blocker with relatively good technique on the edge,” the evaluation began. “His lack of ideal size will lead him to transition inside, but he has a quick first step and great usage of the snatch-trap technique. Manning needs to become more consistent in sinking his hips to absorb contact against the bull rush and punch timing needs to improve.”

The snatch-trap is perfect for a 49ers offense that’s reliant on zone blocking. As it was, Manning got used to blocking in an RPO (run-pass option) style offense on the island, which also saw its share of the traditional Run-and-Shoot formations that became a staple of Hawaii football.

While Manning comes carrying less than 300 pounds, it’s not the first time the 49ers have taken a flyer on undersized linemen.

Last season, Jason Poe arrived to S.F. undrafted out of Mercer by weighing close to 300. Poe, however, was lauded for his rare athleticism which included him being used as a part-time fullback and tight end. Poe has since managed to stick around the Bay Area and is among the players eligible to participate in the 49ers’ rookie minicamp beginning Friday.

Manning’s tackle background can put him in the mix for the spot bequeathed by Mike McGlinchey. But, the 49ers may become intrigued to try him at one of the guard spots given his quick feet — which could come in good use on pulling plays.

Manning, like many UDFAs, faces long odds to stay on the roster. However, Sapolu was an 11th-round draft selection by the 49ers who ended up producing a Hall of Fame career.

Manning is among the 12 UDFA players signed by the Niners.

49ers 2023 Draft Picks All Officially on Board

The 49ers also didn’t take long to address their draft selections.

All nine selections from the 2023 draft class are officially signed by the franchise as of Friday.

The fifth-rounders Robert Beal and Darrell Luter Jr., though, were the first prospects who had their contracts revealed before Friday’s announcement. Now, everyone else from first selection Ji’Ayir Brown, to kicker Jake Moody all the way to linebacker Dee Winters are all under contract.

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