New 49ers safety Mustapha ready to follow in Hufanga's footsteps

New 49ers safety Mustapha ready to follow in Hufanga's footsteps originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SANTA CLARA — With the No. 124 pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, the 49ers added Malik Mustapha to bring depth and downhill speed to the defensive backfield.

The Wake Forest safety is familiar with the 49ers' need for safeties to be the “eraser,” and he has kept a watchful eye on new teammate Talanoa Hufanga excel in the role during his career.

“I feel like I fit the model perfectly,” Mustapha said on Saturday. “It’s something that I emphasized a lot when I was playing defense at Wake Forest. Being able to be coached by good coaches that helped my playing ability at the next level, is something that’s going to help me become more of an eraser.

“Looking at film from guys like Hufanga is something that I looked at a lot during my time at Wake Forest, picking up gems from him as well. He’s one of the best erasers in the game of football and I know that learning from him and then picking up where he left off and just learning from the veteran guys there and earning the respect of everybody will help me to enhance my playing ability as well.”

Mustapha recorded impressive stats during his final college season, registering 62 total tackles, 21 run stops, five coverage stops, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one interception.

The 5-foot-10, 209-pound defensive back also is very proficient in blitzing the quarterback, with his best stats coming in his junior campaign. In 2022, Mustapha racked up 15 total pressures, four sacks, three hits, eight hurries and two forced fumbles. As a senior, the safety registered one sack, one hit, one hurry and two forced fumbles.

“Oh, I enjoy it a lot,” Mustapha said. “Just being able to be downhill fast, make the quarterback get off the read really fast, and react really fast. It’s something that kind of disgruntles the quarterback, but it’s something that I enjoy doing a lot, so I definitely don’t shy away from blitzing.”

Mustapha will join Hufanga, Ji’Ayir Brown, George Odum, Tayler Hawkins and Erik Harris in the safeties group to add depth and potentially step in for reps as Hufanga returns from an ACL injury he suffered in Week 10 of the 2023 season.

Also similar to Hufanga, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, Mustapha is ready to carve out a role on special teams to make the roster. The former Demon Deacon has yet to receive direction about where he might fit into the lineup -- which is not a concern.

“I’m a downhill, speed, tenacity, ballplayer that plays with a lot of fire,” Mustapha said. “I’m able to line up pretty much everywhere. Just watching the film, I’m able to impact the game on all levels of the football. I’m pretty sure the 49ers have a plan for me. I really feel comfortable in a lot of spots, being able to show that versatility during my time at Wake Forest.”

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