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SANTA CLARA – Before he worked without a net, taking on the responsibilities of making calls and directing the offensive line during 49ers rookie camp, center Marcus Martin had two weeks of prep time with the veterans.
“Anthony Davis, Joe Staley, those are guys who are in my ear every day talking to me, encouraging me, telling to keep my head up,” said Martin, a third-round draft pick from USC.
“That’s very encouraging for a rookie. I’m glad I have those guys around me to keep motivating me.”
Martin started 33 games at USC in three seasons. He started 20 games at guard and 13 at center before foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Martin (6 foot 3, 320 pounds) is 20 years old. He’s a little more than a month younger than Davis was when the 49ers made him a first-round pick. Davis earned a starting job as a rookie and has started every game in his four-year NFL career.
“One thing Anthony emphasizes (is) age doesn’t have anything to do with your ability to play on the field,” Martin said. “I’m only 20 years old and he came in as a young man, as well. I think his birthday is in October, and mine’s in November. So both of us are able to relate very well, and he told me, ‘Don’t worry about your age, just come in and compete.’ And that’s all I worry about.”
Martin was a team captain and consensus first-team All-Pac 12 last season. Yet, he faces a difficult challenge to win the starting job as a rookie. After all, Daniel Kilogore has a three-season head start on learning from offensive line coach Mike Solari.
“You got to digest all this information, so I’m doing the best I can to soak up as much as I can,” Martin said. “It’s coming along pretty smoothly because it’s pretty similar to the system I ran in college.”
Martin has been entrusted with the responsibility of learning both guard positions and center. But seemingly his only path to a starting role as a rookie is to win a competition against Kilgore, who signed a three-year extension in the offseason to become the presumptive starter after the 49ers declined to offer veteran Jonathan Goodwin a new contract.
“Right now, he’s going to be in the understudy role,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of Martin. “That’s the expectation that we put on him, to learn and get up to speed as fast as possible, and, put no timetable on it. That’s his expectation right now. Learn the offense.”
But Martin does not sound as if he is content to just sit back and watch.
“I’m coming in to compete,” Martin said. “I’m learning as much as I can from Kilgore and the rest of the offensive linemen, and I’m trying to soak up as much of the offense as I can and be a great competitor.”