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Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson responds to a question during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS -- The last time Hue Jackson and Jim Harbaugh were linked was Jan. 5 and 6, when they were interviewed on back-to-back days as head coaching candidates for the 49ers.

Thursday on Day 1 of the NFL scouting combine, they took the podium in that order at Lucas Oil Field as rookie head coaches -- Jackson with the Raiders, Harbaugh with the 49ers.

Both men find their new surroundings daunting and challenging.

Jackson espoused Oakland tradition and the honor of working for managing general partner Al Davis. Harbaugh talked about the legacy of Bill Walsh and walking into the facility every day and looking directly at five Lombardi Trophies in a glass case.

On-field workouts have yet to begin, so both coaches have been involved in lining up a succession of 15-minute interviews in an attempt to glean some kind of vibe, positive or negative, that will aid the eventual process of player selection.

Jackson made it clear he wants guys who run fast. Harbaugh is hopeful he will have some inside information from his experience as a college recruiter.

The last time Harbaugh came to the combine was as a Raiders assistant under Bill Callahan in 2003.

"I was a quality control coach doing a lot of quality control jobs, inputting numbers," Harbaugh said. "I evaluated quarterbacks and things like that.

"Here, I'll be here for six days evaluating all positions and getting to ask questions and actually be around these youngsters, getting knee-to-knee and eyeball-to-eyeball with them, letting them get to know me and me getting to know them."

If Jackson is stressed about labor uncertainty and being a head coach for the first time, he hid it well as he enthusiastically put forth his agenda in three interviews plus a Sirius radio session with former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon.

"Everything is going to take care of itself," Jackson said. "If we don't have an offseason (workout) program, it means there's 31 other teams that don't have an offseason program. We won't be in a hole different than anyone else."

Specifics are kept to a minimum when discussing draft strategies and philosophies, but Jackson unabashedly clings to the Raider way of speed above all else.

"You look at it because that's what's important in this game," Jackson said. "You've got to have guys that run fast or you can't score touchdowns and you can't catch people."

According to a recent story in the National Football Post, there have been nine players at the combine since 1999 who have timed under 4.3 seconds for the 40-yard dash. Four of them -- cornerbacks Fabian Washington (4.25) and Stanford Routt (4.28) and wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.25) and Jacoby Ford (4.28) -- were drafted by the Raiders. No other team picked more than one sub-4.3 player during that span.

Ford, who as a rookie scored seven touchdowns last season including three on kickoff returns, wasn't selected merely on the basis of his blazing time in the 40, Jackson said.

"There's still more information to gather," Jackson said. "This is an ongoing process. You go watch more tape, then see them individually and work them out, and then the next thing you know you draft them and then start the next process."

If Harbaugh has an advantage, it lies in his knowledge gained as a recruiter at Stanford, insight 49ers general manager Trent Baalke believes can be advantageous.

It's the same thing Davis said in 2007 when hiring Lane Kiffin, who was formerly a recruiting coordinator at USC. It never was clear how much influence Kiffin had, but it isn't likely to approach what Harbaugh wields with the 49ers.

"I don't know if it's an advantage at all, or how much of an advantage it is," Harbaugh said. "But coming from college, I have a fresh understanding of what they've been through the last three, four, five years. Where they were three, four or five years before that. The things they've accomplished and things they've overcome. Some of the tricks they play and some of the wool they try to pull over your eyes.

"Everybody that's here is good. Now you try to find better and best as you go through the process."

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