Buckner and Garnett: Former Pac-12 foes now 49ers teammates
SANTA CLARA -- Stanford and Oregon have been painted as opposites in recent years: The Cardinal as slow and methodical and their Pac-12 rivals as frenetic and rabbit-quick.
On Friday, however, the top draft picks from the respective schools, Oregon's DeForest Buckner and Stanford's Joshua Garnett, found themselves seated at the same table and noting their similarities.
"Athletic, physical guys -- what you can tell is the common denominator with what they're looking for at San Francisco," said Garnett, a guard whom the 49ers took late in the first round Thursday. "You can tell between myself and DeForest (Buckner) that it's really what they're looking for."
Garnett could have added last year's first-round pick, Arik Armstead, to the equation. The defensive lineman was on hand Friday to welcome his ex-linemate, Buckner, and his one-time rival, Garnett, to the 49ers and to help show them around Levi’s Stadium.
The overall impression of the group was size. All three are around 300 pounds. At 6-5, Garnett is the shortest of the trio.
The assemblage of big bodies speaks to how Chip Kelly, perhaps typecast as someone whose success was tied to small, speedy guys, will mesh with a roster that has been built over the last decade with bulk in mind.
In the third round, the 49ers went with a feisty cornerback, Will Redmond from Mississippi State.
Like many of general manager Trent Baalke’s previous draft picks, Redmond joins the 49ers with an ACL injury, one he suffered in practice on Oct. 22. His surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews, the same surgeon who handled linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s knee procedure in 2014, and Baalke insisted that Redmond would be ready for training camp in July.
“He will be healthy,” Baalke said. “He will be ready to play.”
He said the 49ers liked Redmond’s plucky style of play and they loved his character. He said Redmond was quick enough to compete inside at the nickel cornerback position and big enough to perhaps have a role on the outside as well. One of the 49ers’ cornerback starters likely will be Tramaine Brock. The other is undecided with Dontae Johnson, Kenneth Acker, Marcus Cromartie, Keith Reaser and Redmond competing for a spot.
“You can never have enough cover guys as you know,” Baalke said.
Last year, Baalke had to prompt the incoming head coach, Jim Tomsula, on the team's philosophy. "I think somewhere in there he said we're going to run the ball," Baalke said last January.
Kelly has needed no such encouragement.
"I think we’ve finished first, eighth and 14th in the last three years in the league running the football when I was in Philadelphia," he said. "We’re going to continue to do that. When you have someone like Carlos Hyde in the backfield, I think that’s what we want here. We’re going to play great defense and we’re going to be really good at running the football."
Garnett is expected to help in that regard. He was the 49ers' highest-rated run-blocking guard in the draft, someone who helped Stanford average 223.7 rushing yards a game last season, which ranked 19th in the nation.
Buckner, meanwhile, adds size to a 49ers defense that finished 29th in the NFL last season. He also brings stamina. Per Pro Football Focus, Buckner's 951 snaps last season were the most in the nation by an interior defensive lineman.
"After losing some veterans this year, my coach -- we had a bunch of young guys on the d-line -- so my coach didn’t really have the trust that he had with the guys before," Buckner said. "So this year he kept me in a lot more and I got a lot more snaps.”
That caught Baalke's eye as well. "You look at most of these guys coming out, d-linemen, they play 50, 60 percent of the snaps," he said. "DeForest the last two years has played plus-80 (percent)."
Garnett can attest that Buckner's workload didn't diminish his effort.
The two faced each other on Oct. 14, a 38-36 Oregon win. It was perhaps Garnett's roughest game of the season. Stanford rushed for 202 yards and Buckner finished with a season-high 10 tackles to go along with a half sack.
"He was doing it all," Garnett recalled. "It's definitely a testament to the type of player he was and the conditioning he had, especially against Stanford. We're running downhill, we're at you ever time. A lot of times, it's easy for a guy to tap out. But that's not the type of player he is or was at Oregon."