More prospects for offensive-line upgrade

The last of the offensive linemen spoke with the media on Thursday, so we’re playing catchup. Here are some of the prospects at the position considered the 49ers’ biggest need.


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Bryan Bulaga, Iowa


He came off as a very engaging personality during his time at the podium. He explain the illness that forced him to miss three games and drop about 10 pounds:


“It’s called thyroiditis, it’s a viral infection that lands in your thyroid, that causes your thyroid to overproduce that hormone, which causes loss of stamina, fatigue, increased heart rate, all of the above. It was a three-week period. It hit me hard that Iowa State week, that was the first game I ended up sitting out. The effects of it kind of lingered on into the season, too – not being able to lift or work out or do anything those three weeks, it took me a while to get back into full game shape. That was kind of the disappointing part of it.”


He’s had the benefit of working under coach Kirk Ferentz, who was an offensive line coach in the NFL. So Bulaga is well-drilled in both run-blocking and pass protection.


“It’s tough, because the expectations are high now. He only expects the best from his guys. At practice, he’s around us a lot, he’s giving us a lot of teaching, throughout the entire practice. You’ve got to do it, you’ve got to impress the boss. It was tough but it was well worth it. He’s a great coach, a great person. It was great to be around him for three years.”


Bulaga is considered a lock to be chosen in the first round. The 49ers are a possible destination.


“I’m just hoping to show all the GMs and coaches and scouts my athleticism as a player. You see the toughness, the physicality and the technique (on tape), but you don’t really see the athleticism much. Getting out and doing the drills, running the cones, I think you can really see that part of me.”


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Russell Okung, Oklahoma State


It seems highly unlikely he will still be around when the 49ers select. Okung is considered by many as the top tackle in the draft, and he does not figure to make it past the Seahawks, who select at No. 6.


Okung seems to be a man of few words. Here’s his response to a question of whether he recalls his bad plays: “Last year? I never really recall any bad plays. I just don’t talk about ’em. Don’t speak them into existence.”


He said he is taking a straight-forward approach to the interview process because he has nothing to hide.


“My best way to do things is be honest. Be up front,” he said. “Don’t have to lie about anything. Be up front with the coaches and the GM. If you’re their type of player, you’re their type of player.”


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Rodger Saffold, Indiana


Some have him projected as a guard, but lists Saffold as a possible third-round pick at tackle.


Saffold admits to getting beat for 14 sacks during his college career, but he’s quick to point out he surrendered only one sackin 2009. He started 41 consecutive games at left tackle at Indiana.


“I haven’t seen a lot of 3-4 defenses but I’ve been able to see a whole bunch of different things and basically I’ll be preparing myself for those type of defenses once I play in the NFL,” he said.


Saffold had a strong showing in the East-West Shrine game last month.


“I just wanted to play,” he said. “You’ve always got to fight for what you want in life, and in the East-West game I really wanted to play against competition I never would’ve faced in the Big Ten. I was able to do that, I played well, but it wasn’t really a confidence boost because you always have to have confidence in yourself.”


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Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale College


He checked in at 6-foot-8, 312 pounds. But his arm length is only 33 inches.


“I would like them to measure wingspan,” he said. “I feel I have pretty broad shoulders. But I’ve never felt I had short arms. I played basketball. I can dunk the ball just fine and everything. I look at myself in the mirror and said, ‘How are these short arms?’ But it’s not a big deal. Thirty-three inch arms and real quick feet will get the job done.”


So what’s the biggest challenge of coming from such a small school?


“Every interview you get asked, ‘Why Hillsdale?’ It’s not a tough question to answer,” he said. Between my junior and senior year of high school I went to some of those summer exposure camps. I was coming from a wing-T high school, where all we did was down-block; no pass sliding or anything. With all that footwork and concepts foreign to me, I just tried to rely on basketball footwork. I guess it didn’t go the way those bigger schools wanted to and kind of fell down on their radar. My brother graduated form Hillsdale College and played basketball there. I was familiar with the school. It was a great fit. I liked the values and the coaching staff there. It was a great decision. Going there shows you can go to a Hillsdale College and still be in position to play pro football.”


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John Jerry, Mississippi


The brother of 2009 first-round draft pick Peria Jerry, John Jerry is most likely a fit in the NFL at guard. He started four games at right tackle and eight at right guard this season for Ole Miss.


He played some left tackle during the week at the Senior Bowl.


“That that was my first time ever getting in a left-handed stance. I felt pretty comfortable at it,” he said. “I feel like if I go out and work on it on a day-to-day basis, I can be pretty good at it.”


Jerry checked into the combine at 6-foot-5, 328 pounds. Weight has been an issue for him in the past.


“By my pro day, I’m pretty sure I’ll get down some more,” he said. “I don’t have a goal right now. It’s just kind of a personal thing. I played at 350 and I played at 330, and it’s just so much easier to play at 330. And I think if I keep dropping, I’ll keep getting a little more stamina.”


He said he was 360 pounds entering his junior year, and his playing weight last year was 345 to 350.


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Click here for the post I filed yesterday on some of the 49ers’ options along the offensive line.


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