The San Francisco 49ers first-round draft pick in 2016 landed in the perfect situation to begin his NFL career.
DeForest Buckner is not only playing for his former college head coach (Chip Kelly) – he's working once again with his defensive line coach (Jerry Azzinaro). Both men played a pivotal role in recruiting the Hawaii native to play his college ball at the University of Oregon. In San Francisco, Buckner is also teaming up on the defensive line with a former college teammate, Arik Armstead.
"You couldn't ask for a better place (to be)," Buckner said earlier this month.
The seventh overall selection in this year's draft, described his Oregon-to-San Francisco transition as a smooth process.
"All the veterans have embraced the rookies really well," Buckner said. "They've made it a comfortable environment for everybody."
Buckner comes to the 49ers as the reigning 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He recorded 45 solo tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and 39 hurries last season for the Ducks.
The 6-foot-7, 300-pound defender proved to be a force in college. He's looking to do the same in Jim O'Neil's 3-4 defensive scheme in San Francisco.
"DeForest has done a great job so far," the defensive coordinator said on May 25. "He's very versatile. He's a guy that we see being a difference maker in the run and pass game."
Buckner worked with the third-team defense during OTAs and minicamps. He did, however, sprinkle into the second group in sub-package situations. It's to be expected for a young player absorbing his first NFL playbook.
"I think I can bring versatility lining up in those different spots," Buckner said.
Buckner's stature practically mirrors Armstead, who lined up with the first-team defense for the entire offseason program.
Kelly has enjoyed watching his former Duck standouts reconnect under their position coach.
"I think both DeForest and Arik have done a really nice job," the 49ers coach said on June 8. "They are obviously very comfortable with Jerry. … They have an understanding of how he works and what he's trying to do. Anything that we have here that was different than when they were in Oregon, and there's a lot, because we've got a lot of other pieces to it, Azz can bridge that gap."
Azzinaro's teaching style, which involves a large amount of sled work, has been instrumental in Buckner's development. It especially helps the young lineman practice tight and wide strikes against the offensive linemen he'll soon face in training camp.
Buckner's drill work with the 49ers has taken him back to his early days in Eugene.
"Coach Azz, he's the same," Buckner said. "He's the reason why I committed to Oregon, well, a major reason why. He likes to make a personal connection with everybody. He likes to know his players and get a connection with them and help them."
As for Armstead, San Francisco's first-round choice in 2015, Buckner can tell the strides his former college teammate has made in just one year at the NFL level.
"He got even better than he was before," Buckner noted. "I'm catching up with him. It was always a friendly competition at Oregon."
Buckner, too, looks forward to experiencing similar growth throughout his first season in the professional ranks.
"I'm just following (Arik) and what the other veterans do," Buckner said.
This includes planning training sessions for July.
The location is still undecided, but Buckner promised it won't be in his home of Waianae, Hawaii.
"I don't want to be home and get too comfortable," Buckner explained. "I want to be somewhere where I can keep my eyes on the prize."