Boone expected to get chance to compete at guard

April 10, 2012, 6:21 pm
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When the 49ers' offseason programs begins Monday, offensive lineman Alex Boone is likely to get a chance to show his versatility.Boone, who was the 49ers' primary backup at both offensive tackle positions last season, is expected to get a chance to compete for a starting job at guard, according to multiple individuals close to the team.Coach Jim Harbaugh regularly referred to Boone last season as one of his seven "starting" offensive linemen. Boone spent all of 2009 on the 49ers' practice squad after being an undrafted free agent from Ohio State. He saw action in just one game in 2010.Boone, who is listed at 6-foot-8, 300 pounds, took over for veteran Barry Sims as the 49ers' backup tackle on both sides last season. He played 172 snaps on offense, including 55 at left tackle on Dec. 11 against the Arizona Cardinals when Joe Staley exited in the first quarter with a concussion. Boone also saw limited action at right tackle and was used regularly as an extra blocker, mostly in short-yardage situations.LeCharles Bentley, a two-time Pro Bowl lineman whose career was cut short after six seasons due to a knee injury and complications from surgery, has worked closely with Boone for several years at Bentley's O-Line Academy near Cleveland.
"Alex can play guard if it's the best thing for the team, but physically it's not the ideal position for him," Bentley said. "Good guards are easier to find than good tackles. I believe Alex is a very good tackle in the making."Harbaugh stated during training camp last summer that the team's five best offensive linemen would start. Boone is expected to compete for a full-time job in 2012 -- though it might require a position change.
The 49ers have four obvious starters on the line, but the club is looking to replace right guard Adam Snyder, who started 15 games, including the playoffs.Snyder signed a five-year contract with the Cardinals as a free agent. And the 49ers have not show much interest in re-signing backup Chilo Rachal, whom Harbaugh also considered a starter even after he was benched at halftime of the 49ers' third game of the season.Daniel Kilgore, whom the 49ers traded up to select last year in the fifth round, is expected to compete for the starting job. Kilgore might also see some time at center behind starter Jonathan Goodwin.The 49ers have looked at a handful of veteran guards in free agency. The team visited with Leonard Davis, Jason Brown, Deuce Lutui and Geoff Schwartz but have yet to sign anyone. Lutui (Seattle) and Schwartz (Minnesota) have since signed with other teams."Honestly, in their scheme, guards are a dime a dozen," Bentley said. "A good young offensive tackle is such a premium. It would be a waste of ability. . . . But if he's one of the five best, yeah, get him on the field."Bentley said he believes the 49ers' best option would be to move right tackle Anthony Davis to guard. It's a switch that is not likely to happen after the 49ers traded up to select Davis with the No. 11 pick in the 2010 draft. The 49ers expect Davis, with his first offseason of work with coaches this year, to develop into one of the game's top right tackles."I believe they have to figure out who the best five are first," Bentley said. "Then, figure out the proper configuration. Alex is my guy. He still has to show he's ready to be an NFL starter. Potential is just unproven talent. There are four guys we all know are starters. They need one more. I believe Alex is a starter, but he's going to have to earn it."

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