Does the 49ers’ defensive line have room for two 6-foot-7, first-round selections from Oregon?
“That would be great,” Arik Armstead, drafted 17th by San Francisco last year, said this week of possibly reuniting with former teammate DeForest Buckner. “That’s one of my closest friends. Having a chance to play with him again would be awesome. We started out together, and I wish I could have played with him one more year. So if we draft him, that would be awesome.”
Chip Kelly, the 49ers’ new coach, certainly wouldn’t shy from a two-tower lineup at defensive end. Kelly recruited Armstead, from Pleasant Grove High School, and Buckner, from Punahou Academy in Honolulu, the same year. Buckner is considered the top defensive lineman in the draft and could go as high as No. 3 to the San Diego Chargers.
Arik is a big power guy. He likes to use his power all the time, but sometimes I like to use a little shake and bake.
Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, comparing his playing style to Arik Armstead’s
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At Oregon, Kelly and defensive-line coach Jerry Azzinaro, who now has the same job with the 49ers, wanted tall, long-limbed, athletic prospects and often looked for them on the basketball court. Buckner was a first-team all-state basketball center in high school; Armstead was nimble enough to make Oregon’s basketball team.
“At one point, I think our football team rivaled our basketball team walking on campus,” said Kelly, whose oft-repeated slogan for the type of player he prefers is, “Big people beat up little people.”
When Oregon’s rivals broke the huddle in 2014, they found Buckner, Armstead and 6-4, 300-pound nose tackle Alex Balducci looming at the line of scrimmage.
“I’m pretty sure every game we played, the O-linemen … were all like, ‘Man, you guys are as big as hell,’ ” Buckner said at the scouting combine in February. “We’d be looking at each other and just laugh because, literally, every team we played against, they said the same thing.”
Buckner was the tallest defensive lineman at the combine. His arms measure 34 3/8 inches, slightly longer than Armstead’s. And his hands are 11 3/4 inches from little finger to thumb, matching the largest hands of any prospect at the combine since the NFL began recording measurements in 2003.
I think we have a similar skill set with our height and athleticism – playing together, being coached by the same people. But I’d agree that he’s a little more finesse and I’m a little more power.
49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead, comparing his playing style to DeForest Buckner’s
Buckner put those tools to good use last season. He had 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, an excellent statistic for a 3-4 defensive lineman, and led the Pacific-12 Conference with 10 1/2 sacks. Buckner said although he and Armstead are similarly sized, their tactics aren’t the same.
“Arik is a big power guy,” Buckner said. “He likes to use his power all the time, but sometimes I like to use a little shake and bake. I can’t use my power all the time, so I like to try to get around and beat the offensive linemen. I feel like I’m more athletic than them.”
Said Armstead: “I think we have a similar skill set with our height and athleticism – playing together, being coached by the same people. But I’d agree that he’s a little more finesse and I’m a little more power.”
The 49ers have a need at defensive line. With Glenn Dorsey (ACL) and Ian Williams (ankle) recovering from injuries, the top returning defensive linemen are Armstead, Quinton Dial and Tony Jerod-Eddie. Mike Purcell, Kaleb Ramsey and Garrison Smith round out the group.
Armstead said the 49ers’ defensive terminology this year is a little different than what he and Buckner used at Oregon. But the scheme and techniques are the same, and he said Buckner wouldn’t have a steep learning curve if the 49ers selected him.
“I think we’ll be a little more simple this year,” Armstead said. “Get lined up and just play, really. And not try to make it more complicated than it is. … Put the linemen in front of people and, you know, beat them up. That’s the vibe I’m getting from the meetings so far.”
- When: Thursday, 5 p.m. (Round 1); Friday, 4 p.m. (Rounds 2-3); and Saturday, 9 a.m. (Rounds 4-7)
- Where: Chicago
- No. 1 pick: Los Angeles
- 49ers’ first pick: No. 7
- Raiders’ first pick: No. 14
- TV: ESPN, NFL Network