There’s long been a lot of debate on how demanding the NFL draft process is, Alabama prospect Reuban Foster left the Combine early due to incident. Some NFL players came to his defense on just how borderline ridiculous the pre-draft process could be.
And now DeForest Buckner, one year removed from that experience isn’t missing anything of it. The 49ers 2016 pick certainly made all the training worth it having a solid rookie campaign and now looks to build upon it in his second season within a new defensive position. Big ends? 3-tech? They have him alternating both spots.
Beyond the defensive shuffle, he shares a lot on what happened his rookie season and where he’s training once these brief workouts the he’s doing with the 49ers are over.
You look at this new defense where do you see your best fit along that defensive line?
To be honest, last year I kind of moved around a lot. Right now Coach is telling me the big end’s spot, and some 3-technique.
You’ve trained a lot with Michael Bennett who comes from a similar scheme, have you talked to him in particular about the nuances of it?
Yeah, actually me,
Eric [Reid] Arik [Armstead], Eli [Harold] we’re going out there in July. We’re going to be out in Hawaii for about a month working out with Michael Bennett. We’ll have the opportunity to pick his brain for a little bit for things we can use to be successful in this scheme.
Would you rather be a 3-tech or at the big-ends spot?
To be honest, it doesn’t matter. I’ve had some success at both spots. I’m just looking forward to learning the new scheme and getting after it.
What are your initial impressions of your [inaudible, something about defensive coordinator Robert Saleh]
I like him a lot. He talked about the kind of style of defense he wants us to be. He wants to attack the ball, have extreme violence and he talked to us about having all gas, no brakes. Getting after it. I feel like everyone’s new here, fresh start. We’re all just excited to get out there and start working.
Are you going to be one-gapping more than last season?
Yeah. He said it’s more of a one-gap control defense. We’ll have one gap and we’re going.
How does that change things for you off the snap.
Oh, off the snap, I’m not two-gapping, so I’m not holding on to blocks. I’m more avoiding now, so I’m excited about that. I don’t have to hold off a 300-pound man for two seconds and then shedding. It’s going to be more exciting.
When they showed film cutups today, was it of Seattle, was it of Jacksonville, or?
Coach said we’re going to have a variation of cutups. It’s probably going to be with Seattle and Atlanta and Jacksonville. Whatever they put up, I’m just taking notes and watching what to do and what not to do.
Is your room ready to make the leap from 32nd to maybe the middle of the league in defense? Was last year unacceptable?
Yeah. At the end of the year, even during the year, everyone knew it was unacceptable. Last time we want to be listed as 32nd in the league. Like I said, everybody’s excited, they’re pumped up, they’re juiced, ready to go. There’s definitely going to be a lot more accountability this year among ourselves and more consistency.
What do you mean a lot more?
I mean, holding guys accountable. If they aren’t doing it right we have to set a standard. If a guy’s not doing it right we gotta call him out, we’re all here. It’s our job. And nobody liked the feeling we had of being a 2-14 team. The only way we’ll get to where we want to be is holding each other accountable.
2nd year, in a better place to hold people accountable.
I’d like to think I got a little respect form last year. Guys come to me and say “That’s your guy, you should talk to him more.” Just seeing that respect I gained from my teammates saying I should call out guys more is a thing I have to do.
You had a really good rookie season, named to the 2016 All-Pro team. What was your learning experience from your rookie year and how will you transition to Year Two?
To be honest, last year, my whole thing was about consistency and being able to keep my pad level low and working on my pad level and also my pass rush. I kind of started off slow during the year. As we played more games, things started to get a lot more easier. Just transitioning to really watching the film. I feel like throughout the year I really got better at watching film, and seeing the little details I have to change in my own play and things I can pick up on against other teams. Being able to develop more in the class room really helped me throughout the season.
What are the benefits of not having to concern yourself with the pre-draft process and train to be a track star with the 40 yard dash and just focus on football and training.
I love it. I was watching the combine the week it was on and I was like, “I’m glad I’m not out there doing that anymore.” Last year was the longest year of my life. Rookie year is the longest year because you’re going straight from your senior season, straight to training, to the combine, to your pro day, meetings if you get sent out to go meet a coach, and then going right into rookie mini-camp and then OTAs straight to the season. It’s a grind. Being able to have that time off to relax and get back after it and just focus on football, strictly football, not worrying about trying to be a track star running a 40.
Do you feel a difference in your body from where you were last year to where you are now, now that you have experience with the strength and conditioning program?
Definitely. We’re also excited to have Ray [Wright] out here, our new strength coach. I’ve been training with him for the past three weeks now and he’s going to get our team right.
Do you feel physically stronger? Do you notice it when you work out?
Oh yeah, definitely. I just feel a lot stronger this year compared to last year. Hopefully I get a little bit of that grown man strength. Just turned 23 so I hope so. I definitely feel a lot stronger and my body feels a lot better compared to last year.
Expectations higher due to Kyle Shanahan?
Expectation has always been here. Last year it was high, we just couldn’t live up to it. There’s just a new energy being here and everybody’s ready to kind of redeem themselves from last year.
How excited are you to get after the quarterback more so in this scheme than in the past? You’re said you’re going to be one-gapping now, so at least you won’t have to shed as much. That’s going to benefit you a lot, especially as a pass rusher.
Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve never been in this kind of scheme. We were really reacting and stuff last year and the schemes I’ve been in the past couple years. Being able to just rip and run and go, everybody is definitely excited to get out there.
Being that this is your second year, once being able to gel with your defensive line unit, knowing where guys are going to be before they’re going to be there and just being a cohesive unit? How do you feel about that edge in your second season?
Still have most of the same guys in the room. We also got the Sams in the room and the Leos. We got everybody. The outside backers are more D-linemen now. So when we go through pass rush things and talking about getting after the quarterback, it’s going to be a lot better than compared to last year because we all know what we need to do with, I want to say, caging the quarterback.
Anything that stood out to you from the opening intro message from John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan?
Him being up here and talking, everybody could feel the energy he was giving off. His main thing is he wants to win. He’s going to treat everybody the same no matter if you’re a first round pick or an undrafted free agent. This is going to be a different culture around here than last year.