We already looked at one position on the offense line, that being the right guard position and Chilo Rachal. In that post, we had some of the more varied results of this offseason's confidence posts, and now it's time to finally take a look at the other offensive line position with a question mark: center. Going forward, one of two players currently on the roster could be starting, while the other may just challenge the aforementioned Rachal for his starting spot on the right side.
David Baas took all of the snaps at center for the 2010 season, but he started training camp "battling" Mike Iupati for the left guard position. Before any actual battling took place though, Iupati was given the job and Baas was going to spend, what was likely to be his last season in San Francisco, on the bench. But an injury to Eric Heitmann saw Baas thrust into the starting role, after a brief call to Kevin Mawae.
In his first game as a starting center, Baas had a shotgun snap get away from him, and was pushed around an awful lot. I was actually spelling doom for the entire season with the loss of Heitmann, a bit over-dramatic I will fully admit, though the season did end up going south, but for other reasons. It was very clear that Baas hadn't played the position in some time, and it was kind of clear that it was probably for a reason.
But things improved over time, Baas still didn't and still doesn't handoff the prettiest of snaps, and his shotgun snaps are still wobbly and a bit off-target, but he matured a lot as a blocker and started to become a force out there on the football field. With the rookie Iupati on his left, the inexperienced and inconsistent Rachal and rookie Anthony Davis on his right, Baas showed a surprising ability to deal with the big defensive tackles an inside pass rushers, while illustrating an above-average proficiency at leading the way and getting out into space for any and all of the 49ers running backs.
That's right, David Baas blocking in space - who would have thought? He wasn't perfect, and he wasn't a dominating factor on every single play, but the dropoff from Heitmann to Baas wasn't as big as I thought it would be, and was in fact negligible when I took a step back to evaluate his season as a whole. Going forward, what I know about Baas is that he should progress if kept in his spot, and he's younger than Heitmann. Now, he is a free agent, but the word is that he'll be back in San Francisco, he just wants to test free agency. I believe he'll get the best offer here, though a weak offensive line draft class could increase his chances of leaving.
So, as the starting center and no other position in 2011, how do you feel about David Baas? A '10' implies that he plays better than 2010, and becomes a force out there, one of the better centers in the league. Heitmann is forgotten. A '7' implies that you are encouraged by his 2010 and believe he can progress and simply be a pretty darn good player. '5' would signify that he's a necessity at this point, but you're underwhelmed either way. You know the rest.