Talanoa Huvanga 49ers is “everyone’s favourite”; Kittle is approaching for the first time

SANTA CLARA – The impact of Talanoa Huvanga’s safety early in the season on the 49-man defense is clear.

“He’s probably everyone’s favorite player, just because of the plays he makes,” defense coordinator DeMeco Ryans said Thursday. “He’s definitely a spark of energy for our entire team, the way he’s played in the past two weeks.”

Hufanga’s two-game start to his second season goes beyond his stats, as much as they are impressive: 17 team-led tackles (three for a loss), three defensive passes, and one interception.

“He doesn’t hesitate because of his preparations all week. That’s what allows him to shine on match day,” added Ryans. “This is the culmination of all the preparations he’s done in the background when no one’s watching.”

That would be in the movie room. Huvanga said he’ll watch with his coaches, come on rest days to watch more, and at home, check back more, because “you can’t get enough of it.” “Look at the corrections, too.”

48 hours after the game is dedicated to cutting the movie. In the end, he moves on to study the next opponent, a day before the team is ready. The first and second landings are checked. Then a third down, then a red zone, then any tendencies, complications, and nuggets to help.

These study habits began in middle school with his father Tevita. “Keep in mind that my dad never played football, but he was a rugby player, and one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever had,” Hovanga said. “It has constantly taught me to be more elaborate and to watch movies.”

His father taught him handling techniques through his background in rugby. Studying the film took on another dimension once Huvanga arrived at the University of Southern California.

“When I went to university, it was completely different,” Hovanga recalls. “I didn’t know the game guide. I didn’t know Cover-6, Cover-8, Quarters. When I got there, I had to learn and it was a huge step in putting more time in.”

He left USC as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, yet was not inducted until 180th overall, in the fifth round of the 2021 draft.

“I knew I had an injury. I know I’m not running a 4.4 (time of a second in a 40-yard dash); I’m running a 4.6, about 4.7,” Huvanga said. “But I just go out there and play the game the way I think it should be played – that’s fast and efficient.”

His quick thinking led the 49ers to a playoff win in Green Bay eight months ago, when he recovered from a blocked penalty for a tied touchdown.

And now? “He’s a guy who plays with his hair on fire,” Ryans added. “He’s everywhere, all over the stadium, playing plays.”

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