Jim Tomsula chose his words carefully following Friday afternoon's OTA session as reporters asked questions about rookie offensive lineman Trent Brown.
The San Francisco 49ers first-year coach was visibly excited about the potential the seventh-round pick has shown since arriving in May. But Tomsula didn't want to get too far ahead of himself – especially immediately after news broke that incumbent starting right tackle Anthony Davis was retiring from football.
"Trent Brown has got tremendous ability," Tomsula said. "There's a lot of development that needs to take place, but absolutely. I really like that guy, and I like the way he's working.
"I'm not looking at you now telling you Trent Brown is going to start at right tackle. But I'm also not telling you he won't. He's just got a lot of work to do, but his potential and his development is really exciting."
Since Davis hadn't been participating in the 49ers offseason workouts, Brown has consistently been lining up with the first-team offense. The Florida product said that experience has helped shorten the learning curve as a rookie.
"Being in there with those guys, I definitely feel like I have to look like I'm part of the first team," Brown said. "I feel like I have to match what they're doing, their tempo and whatever they have going on. It's definitely a positive thing for me. I'm just trying my best to progress each day."
Another potential replacement for Davis is veteran Erik Pears, who signed with the 49ers as a free agent this offseason and has actually been helping Brown get up to speed.
"It's been great. I've been learning from him," Brown said. "We just talk about calming down in between plays and not being so up-tight. I know what's going on, but at the same time, I have to calm myself down."
Photos from the San Francisco 49ers final OTA practice of the 2015 offseason on June 5.
Listed at 6-foot-8, 355 pounds, Brown is by far the largest individual on the 49ers roster. At one point in college, he weighed close to 390 pounds but has since slimmed down. He credits the team's training staff and his unusual athleticism at his size for much of the early success.
"I definitely feel a change in my body. I feel like I'm adding muscle. I just have to keep going," Brown said. "And believe it or not, when I was younger, I was a skill player. I started out playing running back. Played a little quarterback, cornerback, receiver, linebacker. And in basketball, I played guard.
"I'm able to move out in space. I'm a big, athletic guy. It's always been one of my attributes."
After the 49ers break minicamp next week for a month leading up to training camp, Brown plans to stay in the Bay Area and continue working out at the facility. When asked if he views the current 49ers depth chart as an opportunity to become a rookie starter, Brown said, "Yes sir, I do."
"I just have to go harder now to make sure I'm prepared."