The San Francisco 49ers continue to try to build a wall on the offensive line with the addition of OL John Theus from the University of Georgia. The team is keeping their options open selecting players that have played on both sides of the ball. Theus was a 5 star recruit out of high school and started started all 14 games as a true freshman, something that doesn't happen very often in the SEC. He started his career at RT and switched to LT in his junior year.
Theus is what Baalke looks for in a lineman at 6'6 and 303 lbs. He started 48 of his 53 collegiate games and was voted overall team captain in his senior year when he started all 13 games. He played through a shoulder injury last season but never needed surgery and received a clean bill of health at the combine.
Some of the criticism that Theus has received has been regarding the speed of his feet. They tend to be slow, especially when beaten inside, and he lacks explosiveness. He has also been criticized for lacking upper body strength and not being able to set the edge as a result.
Following being drafted by the 49ers, he spoke to the media via conference call. The full transcript is below:
What kind of interaction did you have with the 49ers through the draft process?
"I’ve been in contact with them a little bit, but not too much. Out of the Combine they were the only team I officially met with. I got to meet [49ers head coach] coach Kelly and the staff out there. I met with them for a while, sat on the board, drew up some plays, and kind of just got to know them a little bit. Other than that, I really haven’t met with them too much."
You started your career at Georgia at RT. When did you switch to left?
"Yes sir. I switched to left my junior year. I played my junior and senior year at left tackle and my first two years at right tackle."
Are you comfortable in both spots, or did you learn to like the left side better?
"I’m extremely comfortable with both spots. I played equally on both sides at Georgia, and that’s one of the things that I think makes me more valuable than some of the other guys. I can play both sides very efficiently."
You battled through a shoulder injury last year. Did the 49ers take a good look at that and did you have surgery?
"Yes sir, they took a good look at it at the Combine. I checked out well at the Combine and it’s fully healthy now. No sir, it didn’t require any surgery. I was able to get back this offseason with no lifting restriction or anything. It’s completely healthy. The Lord’s blessed me with having my shoulder healthy again."
Did you have to go back to Indy for a re-check?
"No sir, I did not. No sir."
The 49ers play a zone blocking scheme now. How are you in space? How are your feet? Do you feel like you have good athleticism?
"Yes sir. I feel that’s my strong point for sure. We did a lot of zone blocking at Georgia. It’s something I’ve done my past four years and something that we got better at each year. With how big I am, I’m a good athlete. I can get in open space and I can run. I think I fit in well with the system."
What kind of NFL career do you see yourself having?
"A very long one. I’m the type of guy that can get in and bust my butt and work and play for a very long time. It’s what I’ve done my whole life and I want to be the best I can be. I know that this coaching staff will help me get there."
What does it say about a player who makes First-Team All-SEC?
"I mean, I think it says a lot. No doubt in my mind that I played in the best conference every year I was in college. I’ve played against the top competition and I’ve seen guys get picked ahead of me that I played and fared well against. Playing in the SEC with the great talent and having the honor of being able to end All-SEC, I think it shows a lot about the way I can play."
Who are some of the players that you played against that you've already seen go off the board?
"[Cleveland Browns DE] Carl Nassib for one, from Penn State. I played him in the Bowl game and held him to no tackles and no sacks. So when I saw that, you know? And then guys in the past like [Jacksonville Jaguars DE] Dante Fowler, [Pittsburgh Steelers LB] Bud Dupree, [Atlanta Falcons OLB] Vic Beasley. You know, I’ve played my fair share of first rounders over my career at Georgia."
There appears to be an opening, or at least competition for the right tackle position here with the 49ers. Are you aware of that and do you put that out there as the carrot at the end of the stick? Something that will be your goal for this rookie season?
"I mean, my goal for this season is definitely to contribute to the team and help as much as I can, in whatever role that may be. Now, personally I’m going to go there and give it my all, and obviously the goal for me personally is to earn a starting spot. That right tackle position, I know there’s a guy there, but I know I can go there and compete, which is going to make both of us better. The best man will win and whatever happens, happens."
You mentioned SEC competition. How daunting was it, if at all, to be starting as a true freshman in the SEC?
"It was definitely a learning experience. I’m grateful for it, but starting as a freshman in the SEC is, especially the offensive line position, it’s definitely a challenge. Kind of trial by fire, I learned a lot as I went, but it made me a better player in the end."
Can you tell us players in the league that you might model yourself after, or that you look up to?
"There’s a lot of guys that I try to watch and learn from. Guys like [T] Joe Staley, [Dallas Cowboys T] Tyron Smith, [Cleveland Browns T] Joe Thomas. You know, I try to watch the best, pick up little things that they do and learn from them."