The newest 49ers will be on the field a week from today. Anthony Davis will be at right tackle next week during the rookies minicamp in Santa Clara. Mike Iupati will line up at left guard. And it’s the job of offensive line coach Mike Solari to make it happen.
“We want the best five on the football field, and that’s what’s going to happen that first game against
What’s the challenge of trying to get two rookie offensive linemen on the fast track to become starters?
Solari: “The challenge is just getting them caught up to speed at a winning performance. The key is to get them to feel very comfortable with the vernacular, with our language for communication so they can play at the highest level.”
What is your take, based on when they visited, of how big of a challenge that is going to be?
Solari: Coach (Mike) Singletary had them come to make sure we felt good with them as assistant coaches. Everybody is at a different level learning. The key thing as a coach is you want to be a great teacher, so it’s your job to get all five caught up to speed. And it’s our job to get those two caught up to speed with the starting group or with the guys who are dressing out.
They arrive in June full time, but what can you do leading up to that point to help get them ready?
Solari: “You got to wait. The most important thing is to get them on the grass. The class room is important, without a doubt. But the most important thing is to get them on the field and work with them, so they can execute. . . . That’s the great thing about the way Coach Singletary has made the OTAs. He pushes them back a little bit, so that they can get done with their school, they can be here.”
For a rookie lineman, what’s the hardest adjustment to the NFL?
Solari: “The hardest adjustment, I believe, is pass protection. They’re just not used to the skill and speed of the pass rushers. You don’t pass-block players who have counter-moves in college. You don’t play that rusher who comes up the football field and has that much athleticism in space.”
When you watched them on film, what’s their level of polish? How long will it take for them to become NFL ready?
Solari: “They’re three-year starters. One is coming from a smaller division. The thing that Mike pointed out was he wanted to make sure we were looking at linemen who were tough and physical. That’s something he wanted to highlight to meet the standard and his philosophy of what he wanted our team to be. Both of those men fit that criteria. They’re physical. They’re tough. And we like the way they play the game. We’re excited about developing them and working with them.”
Solari: “You can really develop him. A guy like that you can see greater strides because he doesn’t have bad habits to break. That’s the way I look at it. I’m excited to work with him. He’s a real young guy. He’s going to make unbelievable strides as he develops with the strength and conditioning program here. The key is to get him on the football field and have him make strides there, with the pads on.”
What separates these guys from a “physical” standpoint than other guys you see?
Solari: “Not all pro linemen are physical. They exemplify different skills. Some are technicians. Some are athletic. Guys who are physical show an ability to come off the ball and be physical at the point of attack. They come off the ball and they hit you right in the mouth. Not everybody is like that. And you don’t have to be, either, some times. But it’s something we really believe in here, that we want to have that trait, that quality. A lot of it is an attitude. And if you have it, you have it early, whether it’s in high school or the way you grow up. But it’s something that’s difficult to develop.”
Did you see any lack of focus or concentration from Anthony Davis on film?
Solari: “I saw a lot of film on him, and no I didn’t. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have drafted him.”
After watching Alex Boone last month in OTAs, is he someone you have your eye on?
Solari: “I have my eye on every one of them, but I understand your question. Alex did some nice things last year. Obviously, I looked at him in the preseason. There were a couple things I liked that he did. He’s worked hard. You’ve seen more of a change because you saw him last year when he was here. I know exactly what you’re saying. I’m excited to work with all of them. Alex has worked hard, but to be honest with you, so have all of them.”
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