Joshua Garnett didn’t seem out of step after missing most of the 49ers’ spring sessions, and the rookie wasn’t thrown Tuesday when, before practice, he was told to play left guard for the first time in training camp.
“Coach Flats (offensive-line coach Pat Flaherty) said, ‘Hey, you’re playing left guard today.’ So I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ ” Garnett said. “I really didn’t ask for an explanation, and I really didn’t need one. Wherever they put me, I’m going to go there with a smile on my face.”
Garnett, drafted 28th overall in April, had been playing right guard, but he played on the left side at Stanford. He said the shift isn’t a big deal.
He probably acts a little bit older than a typical rookie. He’s real cerebral. He’s got a great understanding of things.
49ers coach Chip Kelly, on guard Joshua Garnett
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I’m kind of showing I can do both sides,” he said. “I can go wherever the coaches need me to go and be that versatile guy.”
The 49ers selected Garnett because he’s a big, physical blocker who excelled in Stanford’s power-running offense. So far in Santa Clara, the 6-foot-5, 321-pound lineman has been most impressive for his mental agility.
Stanford’s classes still were in session when the 49ers began practicing in the spring, forcing Garnett to miss all but the final June minicamp. But he’s already worked his way up from the third-string offensive line to the second team.
“He’s a real steady guy out there,” coach Chip Kelly said. “There’s not a high, low or whatever. He’s just very consistent in his approach. He probably acts a little bit older than a typical rookie. He’s real cerebral. He’s got a great understanding of things. If he makes a mistake, he can readily correct it.”
Not only was Garnett the first guard drafted, the 49ers traded up nine spots to get him. With that background, he’s expected to crack the starting lineup in the preseason. The question is, on which side?
Zane Beadles, a free-agent acquisition in March, has been lining up at left guard with the first string and appears to have developed a good rapport with left tackle Joe Staley.
Guard Andrew Tiller and tackle Trent Brown have been practicing on the right side. The duo started the final two games of 2015 and played well.
I’m kind of showing I can do both sides. I can go wherever the coaches need me to go and be that versatile guy.
49ers guard Joshua Garnett
Garnett’s partner early in camp has been right tackle Anthony Davis. Considering Garnett’s strength as a run blocker and Davis’ background in former coach Jim Harbaugh’s power-running offense, the combination appears to give the 49ers a vicious right hook on their line.
“There are definitely similarities,” Garnett said of Davis. “I mean, coming out of college, I liked to hang my hat on being a powerful guy. And that’s what I’m trying to get back to here, kind of get the playbook down and not have to think anymore and be able to run off the ball and do the stuff I was drafted to do.”
Though certain guards and tackles have been paired during the spring and summer, Kelly said those combinations at this stage are more about getting players practice repetitions and less about scheming.
“We still have a lot of time before we have to dive into what a depth chart is and who’s going to play what,” he said. “So we’re just trying to get those guys reps. If they happen to be lined up next to the same guy – Joe’s been next to Zane a lot – but I wouldn’t read into any of that stuff right now.”