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49ers Address the Trenches

The 49ers addressed the depth on both sides of the line by taking DT Kentwan Balmer in the first round and OG Chilo Rachal in the second.

"We're excited about both players, offensive lineman, defensive lineman as you already know," said head coach Mike Nolan. "Both will be impact players on our roster. We're confident of that. As I always say, we are drafting need, but we need the best players. So we got two players of need. I think they were the two best players at the time we chose."

Balmer is expected to compete at the nose and the left end position on the defensive line, making him a potential replacement for Bryant Young, who opted to retire following the 2007 season.

"That's also where Isaac Sopoaga, right now, is pegged to be the guy, so there will be some competition there," said Nolan of the left end position. "But, again, depth on the defensive line is something we really haven't been able to address, other than adding Justin Smith this past free agency."

After spending most of his collegiate career at defensive end, Balmer flourished in his role as a defensive tackle in his senior year with the Tar Heels under the direction of former Cleveland Browns head coach Butch Davis.

"He's explosive, powerful and quick," said Davis. "He's got an enormous amount of upside. He really came into his own this year. He had been playing outside as a defensive end prior to us coming to Carolina. We moved him inside. We thought he was a terrific inside defensive tackle, a 3-technique nose tackle. One of the things a lot of the teams loved about him was the versatility that he could fit a 4-3. He could play in a 3-4 scheme. He has the ability to really dominate at the line of scrimmage, and he's got the athletic ability to pursue and to make extended plays at the perimeter."

In addition to Balmer's versatility, Nolan praised his new player for his high motor, something Davis concurred with.

"We were struggling this past year trying to develop the program," explained Davis. "The thing that you love about him, we lost six games by a total of 27 points. The last three minutes of every game, he would be playing like the National Championship was on the line. You have to love that. As a coach you love it when kids refuse to take plays off, even in the midst of a disappointing season, he would have loved to have finished his career by finishing off in a bowl game. You would have never known by the way he was playing that we weren't undefeated."

Rachal could also wind up eventually being a replacement for another experienced veteran in future Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen, who has not yet made a decision about his NFL career. In fact, Nolan said general manager Scot McCloughan referred to him as a "poor man's Larry Allen" during the first time they discussed the USC guard.

Turns out, that's also the player Rachal said he has modeled himself after.

"My favorite player plays for them in Larry Allen. He's the guy I resemble myself to, compare myself to," said Chilo who has also been described as someone who plays with a sense of urgency. "I bring a lot of physicality to the game. I'm a competitor that's not going to give up. I'm going to give it all I got every time."

With David Baas expected to miss part of training camp as he undergoes surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, Rachal will likely see snaps at both left and right guard. Given how thin the 49ers are on the line after also losing Kwame Harris and Justin Smiley, there's a chance he could pay dividends right away.

"He'll compete for a starting position," said Nolan. "I believe he'll make an impact this year. We'll see how much it is as we go. That will all take care of itself on the field."

Another area of need for the 49ers is receiver, a position that many draft experts felt the 49ers might have addressed in day one. San Francisco owns the 12th pick in the third round and Nolan indicated that there are still receivers remaining on the 49ers board.

"We liked a couple of them; we still like a couple of them," said Nolan. "But you only get one pick. There was very good discussion on both choices about some of the wide receivers, much more the second choice than with the first. There's still some good wide receivers on the board."

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