Now we know why 49ers general manager Trent Baalke tapped Chip Kelly as head coach: They both like players with long arms.
“We believe long levers are strong levers,” Kelly said, echoing Baalke’s long-held preference for linemen and pass rushers with at least 34-inch arms.
“You always look at that,” Kelly said at the scouting combine Thursday. “That’s a key component depending on what position you are. Even if it’s receiver. What’s your catch radius? Is he a short-armed guy, or is he a long-armed guy?”
When he coached at Oregon, Kelly said the Ducks targeted the nation’s tallest, longest high school players , then assigned them a position at a later date. Some wound up at tight end or along the offensive line. Others became outside linebackers and defensive linemen.
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead, whom the 49ers drafted in the first round last year out of Oregon, stands 6-foot-7 and has 33-inch arms. His former linemate, DeForest Buckner, also was recruited by Kelly. He’s also 6-7 and likely will be a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.
Said Kelly: “At one point, I think our (Oregon) football team rivaled our basketball team walking on campus.”
Kelly used one of his mottos on Thursday: “Our philosophy has always been: Big people beat up little people,” he said.
Our philosophy has always been: Big people beat up little people.
Chip Kelly, 49ers coach
He noted the best teams in the NFL generally have deep rosters full of big players.
“I used to spend a lot of time when I was at the University of New Hampshire watching the Patriots in summer camp,” he said. “They had some really good teams there, and they were big. Also, big guys don’t get hurt as much.”
Of course, not every NFL prospect has measured up this week at the scouting combine.
Cal quarterback Jared Goff, for instance, had 9-inch hands on Thursday, considerably smaller than the 10-inch mitts of Carson Wentz, the North Dakota State quarterback with whom Goff is competing to be the first passer drafted.
Kelly called hand size “huge” in importance when it comes to quarterbacks.
“You better have big hands,” he said. “Russell Wilson is 5-10 1/2 but he’s got 10 ¼ hands. You better have a big paw to manipulate the football.”
FSU kicker available – Of all the team’s deficiencies this offseason, kicker gets little attention, although the numbers suggest it’s a pretty big one.
Phil Dawson, who was voted the team’s MVP for 2015 and turned 41 last month, is scheduled for free agency after making $4 million last season. In January, the team signed free agent Corey Acosta, a so-called “camp leg” in 2015 who made all four attempts in the preseason but hasn’t kicked in a game.
All of which makes the 49ers interesting to Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo, considered the best kicker in the upcoming draft.
“Oh, yeah. They’re definitely in the mix,” Aguayo said of the 49ers on Wednesday at the scouting combine. “They’re definitely one of the higher teams looking for a kicker.”
Aguayo said the Colts and Saints stood out to him as other candidates.
One of the ideal traits for a kicker is confidence, and Aguayo doesn’t lack in that department.
He entered the draft as a junior, which is rare for a specialist. He has already graduated and conceivably could become the first kicker since Sebastian Janikowski to be taken in the first round. The Raiders picked Janikowski 17th overall in 2000.
Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo conceivably could become the first kicker since Sebastian Janikowski to be taken in the first round.
Kelly likes Hyde’s style – Kelly said that he won’t remove from Carlos Hyde’s game the aspect that makes the running back unique: his punishing style.
“You’re not going to take that away from him,” the 49ers’ coach said. “I think that’s a strength of his. A lot of times, guys get hurt when they’re not delivering the blow; they’re accepting the blow. I look at that (physical style) as a positive.”
Hyde has not survived a full season in his two years with the 49ers.
He suffered an ankle injury at the end of 2014 while serving as Frank Gore’s backup. Last year, he suffered a stress fracture in his foot in Week 5, then eventually was placed on injured reserve. He had surgery on the foot at the end of the season and is rehabilitating.