49ers’ Steve Wilks Talks Bringing Carolina Talent to San Francisco

San Francisco 49ers, Steve Wilks

Getty Current San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks with the Carolina Panthers alongside Christian McCaffrey.

With rookie mini-camp officially underway, fans of the San Francisco 49ers were treated to a media availability session with new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who took over for DeMeco Ryans back in February. Asked about what it’s like to go from Carolina to San Francisco but bringing along a few of his star players like Sam Darnold and Christian McCaffrey, Wilks complemented the duo and wished them nothing but success.

“Hopefully, they’re going to have a lot of success,” Wilks said via 49ers WebZone. “Both of those guys are extremely talented. I’m glad that they’re on our team. I’m glad we’re here together. It was disappointing to lose Christian last year, but he has definitely made a difference here with the 49ers, and I’m glad to be able to be a part of that now.”

Though the Carolina Panthers haven’t been particularly good as of late, recording a 12-22 record since acquiring Darnold from the New York Jets, the team was actually very effective when the USC quarterback shared the offensive backfield with McCaffrey, amassing a 3-1 record in the four games they played together, according to Statmuse. If the duo find themselves in that same position in 2023, it will be interesting to see if they can recapture that success in an offense called and designed by Kyle Shanahan.

Steve Wilks Welcomes Familiar Faces on Defense

Turning his attention to the defensive side of the ball, Wilks was asked to discuss the additions of Myles Hartsfield and Isaiah Oliver, who the former Panthers coordinator coached and coached against during his tenure in Carolina.

“I think it’s always important if you can have someone, whether it’s a player or coach that’s somewhat familiar with your system or in this situation, your philosophy, he can be an extension of you on the field, coaching the guys, also in the locker room and then also in the classroom. So that was an important factor for me,” Wilks said. “(Hartsfield)’s a good football player as well. Oliver is someone that I had the opportunity to go against being in that division, and we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in free agency with Jimmie (Ward), and when that didn’t happen, we wanted to make sure that we sort of got the best nickel in free agency and that’s what we went out and did, so I’m excited about Oliver. He’s long, he’s physical, can tackle, can cover, he’s going to be a good blitzer for us, everything that we do within this defense.”

While only time will tell how much Hartsfield and Oliver will play in 2023, as the team added to their depth charts in the draft with Ji’Ayir Brown and Darrell Luter Jr., signing a pair of players who Wilks is familiar with should help to translate his scheme to San Francisco, which has largely stuck to the Robert Salah school of defense since Shanahan joined the 49ers in 2017.

Discussing what it’s like to join Wilks, McCaffrey, and Darnold in San Francisco as part of an interview with Lindey Pallares, Hartsfield noted his relationship with both of his former teammates and how excited he is to join them in the Bay Area.

“Yeah, it’s going to be a good one,” Hartsfield told Pallares. “Those are two players that I talk to every day, you know, Christian is probably one of the funniest dudes you know once you get to know him, and then Sam’s humble, a California dude, so just to get back in the room with all of those guys and Coach Wilks is gonna be good.”

After playing his entire career in Carolina following a four-year collegiate stint in Ole Miss, Hartsfield will be playing his fourth professional season in San Francisco. Having a few familiar faces in the building should help to ease that transition.

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