49ers' Borland armed for successful NFL career

49ers' Borland armed for successful NFL career
May 16, 2014, 10:15 am
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I know it’s not my strong suit, but I’m comfortable with my athleticism. I never feel outmatched out there.
Chris Borland

SANTA CLARA -- Even noted armophile Trent Baalke could not help but look beyond the length of linebacker Chris Borland’s levers.

Until Borland attended the Senior Bowl, he figured only his height (5 foot 11 ½) and speed (4.83 seconds in the 40-yard dash) would be questioned by NFL scouts. Then, he found out his arm length was a major cause of concern, too.

“The Senior Bowl was the first time my arms were measured,” Borland said after a workout during the 49ers’ offseason program on Thursday. “I didn’t really care. I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought.”

Baalke, the 49ers’ general manager, has made it known of his affinity for long arms. There were more than 330 prospects invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. And only one kicker had shorter arms than Borland, who measured at 29 1/4 inches.

But those arms were plenty long enough for Borland to record 450 tackles in 48 career starts at Wisconsin. As a senior he was named a first-team All-American, as well as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

One of his stronger days came against Ohio State, as he recorded 16 tackles (10 solo), including some notable stops of running back Carlos Hyde. The 49ers selected Hyde in the second round of the draft. Borland was chosen in the third round.

“We saw him earlier in his career and he was a little heavier,” Borland said of Hyde, who gained 1,527 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing last season. “And maybe you can suggest he was more of a bruising back. He shed some pounds before this past season and was just a complete all-around back. He didn’t have any flaws, really.”

Borland’s only obvious flaws are the measurables. He said he looks to such players as Sam Mills, Zach Thomas and London Fletcher, who overcame their lack of size to carve out productive NFL careers.

“I play a position where if you’re mentally sharp, it’s not that big a deal. You’re not a cover corner or anything,” Borland said.

“I know it’s not my strong suit, but I’m comfortable with my athleticism. I never feel outmatched out there. I take the ‘Try hard’ as a compliment.”

Borland will not be the only rookie inside linebacker who will be trying hard to earn a role on a loaded 49ers roster. Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov, who was ranked along with Borland as one of the draft’s top inside linebackers, surprisingly went undrafted.

Skov signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent.

[RELATED: Skov has no answer why he went undrafted]

“I didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought when they did,” Borland said. “It’s been great to work with Shayne this past week, though. He’s a smart guy and a really good player. I got a lot of respect for him, so it’ll be fun competing.”