SAN JOSE Adam Snyder has lined up at every offensive-line position except center during his six-year career with the 49ers. He's in an excellent position to conquer that last hurdle in 2011.
The 49ers are short on snappers. Last year's starter, David Baas, is an unrestricted free agent, as is another center from last year's squad, Tony Wragge.
Eric Heitmann, the team's center from 2005 to 2009, is rehabilitating a neck injury that knocked him out of the 2010 season, and his status is uncertain.
The team drafted two offensive linemen, Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person, in April with the hope that one or both could fill in as a backup center. But neither played that position in college, and the learning curve might be too steep this season, especially if the lockout drags on.
That leaves Snyder, who made a few training camp snaps last year but saw his regular-season action at right guard. Snyder has been quarterback Alex Smith's de facto center during informal workouts this offseason, and he has been lining up there during the team's more structured practices this week.
"I've been snapping with Alex all offseason," Snyder said. "Just because of the uncertainty of all the other guys, I'd like to have that in my back pocket if I can do it. I mean, I've played all the other (offensive-line) positions. I might as well work at it in the time that we have now when we're not really doing anything."
Snyder also is the poster boy for the team's new, slimmed-down offensive line. Each of the four veterans working at San Jose State this week Joe Staley, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are the others has lost weight this offseason, none more than Snyder.
Listed at 325 pounds last season, Snyder said he weighs about 298 now. The key to his success? A stricter diet and more competition in the weight room.
In a normal offseason, the offensive linemen would work out among themselves. This year, they're mixing with players at different positions.
"We're working out with guys like Justin (Smith) and D-line guys," he said. "And I see them work hard, so that makes me work hard. Patrick Willis was out here for a couple of weeks. Watching those guys work out, it pushes you a little harder."
Et cetera For the second straight day, wide receiver Michael Crabtree attended the classroom portion of the offensive minicamp but left before practice. Teammate Josh Morgan said Crabtree has sore feet after practicing Monday in new cleats.
Running back Anthony Dixon wasn't discouraged when the 49ers drafted another runner, Kendall Hunter, in the fourth round in April. Dixon said he welcomes the company.
"Oh, man, when I saw that, it was like, 'Thank God. We've got more help,' " Dixon said. "Those reps get crazy during (training) camp and even during the preseason."
Dixon and Hunter will back up Frank Gore this season.