DeForest Buckner Hungry to Prove Himself on 49ers Defensive Line

A quick survey of the field at any San Francisco 49ers practice is all that is needed to spot the team's top draft pick from this spring.

DeForest Buckner, who stands 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, towers over even his largest teammates (besides fellow behemoth and close friend Arik Armstead).

That extraordinary size makes the No. 7 overall pick a physical standout in any environment. Now, as the 49ers begin Phase 3 of their offseason program, Buckner is striving to ensure his work ethic and production become as ubiquitous as his measurables.

The 22-year-old has a head start on his competition, too. As has been discussed since his arrival in Santa Clara, Buckner's head coach, Chip Kelly, and position coach, Jerry Azzinaro, recruited him to Oregon four years ago.

"The whole defense and certain plays we're running here are similar to what we ran in college," Buckner said on Tuesday. "It's just different terminology I have to get used to."

Although Buckner spent the majority of his senior season (83 tackles and 10.5 sacks) playing on the right side of the line in Eugene, the 49ers are having the rookie learn all three positions. The goal is to create depth and familiarity at each spot so the team can adjust on the fly in-game.

"They want us to get after it," Buckner said. "They made it a big emphasis to be an aggressive defense and play fast."

Although OTAs allow for teams to run offense versus defense drills, certain contact is still barred and players do not wear pads. These rules are forcing Buckner to work on other areas of his game – instead of relying on his strength.

"It's about your handwork and your footwork," he said. "It's a good way to focus on that. A big part of my game is power, and it's easy to use it when you have pads on. But without them, you can work on your feet and hands more."

Like any rookie, Buckner is still getting acclimated to life in the NFL. Having Armstead and the familiar coaching staff by his side helps, but only goes so far. To fill in the other gaps, Buckner has leaned on several defensive veterans to show him the ropes.

"Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie – all those older guys have been helping us younger guys out," Buckner said. "When we watch film, they'll lean over and tell us what we did wrong. And then when we get on the field, it's the same thing.

"Just little things like that. They make it a comfortable room to be in and to work with all of them. They'll answer any questions and that makes it a good environment. I thank all of those older guys for that."

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