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Western Michigan O-line coach Bill Kenney on Jaylon Moore’s fit with 49ers

The long-time coach chatted with Niners Nation about Moore’s NFL potential and more.

Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers used five of their eight selections at the 2021 NFL Draft on offensive players. The Niners hope two of those prospects can develop into long-term solutions in the trenches.

General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan added Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks in Round 2. They then went with Western Michigan’s Jaylon Moore in the fifth-round (No. 155 overall).

The 6-4, 311-pound Moore was a dominant three-year starter at left tackle for the Broncos. Pro Football Focus gave Moore an overall grade of 77.5 for his efforts last season, where he only gave up six total pressures and committed just three penalties.

Western Michigan’s offensive line coach Bill Kenney is a football lifer. He has been with the Broncos since 2013 and has been a coach for 38 years. Kenney spent the bulk of his career at Penn State University and also had stints with the University of Nebraska and Norwich University.

I caught up with Kenney to discuss Moore’s time at Western Michigan, Moore’s strengths and weaknesses, and he will fit in Shanahan’s scheme.

Q: How did Jaylon’s game progress from when he first joined the program compared to where he is going into his first season as a pro?

Kenney: Coming out of high school, we recruited him as a defensive lineman initially. He was very early in his career. Outstanding movement skills, really good feet and flexibility. He had the size and frame that you look for. The athleticism to play on the defensive side of the ball. But then we transitioned him to the offensive side of the ball. We put them at the left tackle position. Literally he anchored the position for us, his whole career here, just did an outstanding job.

I think the 49ers did a phenomenal job of evaluating him. I think it really does speak to their ability to be able to mine talent. I’ve been doing this a lot of years; he’s one of the finest young men I have had the fortune to coach over the course of my career, spans about 38 years now. He’s got unusual movement skills for an individual that size. He has excellent feet, has the ability to dance on the outside as an offensive tackle, but he certainly has the frame and the strength and the bulk to be able to compete effectively inside. He gives you a lot of positional flexibility.

We’ve been very fortunate here at Western Michigan over the years. We’ve had a number of offensive lineman that go into the league and play very well. Two starting tackles in the league presently; Taylor Moton is one. He plays for the Carolina Panthers. Chukwuma Okorafor plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers and both of them are doing a great job. Jaylon’s very much in their world in terms of his ability and his effectiveness. I’m excited to see him over the next few years because I feel like he’s really a guy that has the chops to play in that league for an extended period of time.

Q: What are some of the weaknesses Jaylon has to work on in order to develop into a successful NFL pro?

Kenney: The transition from college to the NFL level, the biggest adjustment is to get used to the speed of the game at the NFL level, You know, it’s the same adjustment that you have transitioning from the high school level to the college level. You know, when you come out of high school, you got a certain standard of play across the board. And when you get to the Div. 1 level, the speed increases significantly. I know with the NFL level that the speed ends up being warp speed; it really amplifies exceptionally at that level.

The adjustment probably for Jaylon will be to get used to the speed. The tempo of play, as it relates to, guys on the defensive side of the ball, defense fronts and the linebackers in that front seven. That’ll take some adjustments, but he certainly has the skill set to compete and compete very effectively. He uses his hands very well; it’s really good lower body strength. His flexibility is exceptional.

The one thing that stands out about Jaylon and his career, his entire career here at Western Michigan, I can’t remember him ever missing a rep. I can’t remember him ever missing a practice or not even a rep in a game or a practice because of injury or anything related to that. His durability is exceptional. I hope with good fortune that continues to be the case as he pursues his career at the NFL level.

But I’m excited for him. I just really feel like he is one of the finest talents I’ve had the ability to coach over an extended period of time, and I just get a feeling that he’s a guy that is gonna play in that league for a while.

Q: What are some of the strengths of Jaylon’s game that he will be able to use as a foundation at the NFL level?

Kenney: The thing you’ll be most impressed with when you get an opportunity to see him on the field is his ability to move. That is a key component to being successful on the offensive line. You got to have the ability to change direction, you got to have the ability and flexibility, and like drag people, you know, literally move a man against this will, that is the world we live in. He plays with a really good pad level, uses his hands, as I said earlier, perfectly. It’s a leverage game, and with his flexibility and his bend, he maximizes his ability to leverage a defender. That’s a real strength of his.

Q: How do you think Jaylon will fit in coach Shanahan’s outside zone scheme?

Kenney: The one thing that has great carryover for him is that here at Western, we’re primarily a zone team. That’s what he’s been really maximizing in over the course of his career here,

He has a good fundamental understanding of the skill sets involved and competing in that environment and that run scheme. Just watching the 49ers over the years under Shanahan, I think they run the ball very, very well. The line is a really athletic group of guys, and I see Jaylon kind of fit into that mold. He fits what they do, that’s why I think they did a really, really good job of evaluating him.

Q: What kind of person is Jaylon off the field?

Kenney: Just one of the most unselfish, exceptional teammates that I’ve been around. He’s just got outstanding character. He gives to the community here in Kalamazoo, gives to his teammates. He’s got strong leadership ability. He’s kind of the guy that, if you put a wish list together in terms of what you’d want a guy to be, then he’s it. He makes you very, very proud of the way he conducts himself, both on and off the field. He’s a guy that has outstanding leadership abilities.

His character is absolutely exceptional. He comes from a great family. As I say, he’s been just one of our most exceptional contributors to this program, and I see him doing more of the same as he advances his career at the NFL level.


Moore will join the rest of the 49ers’ incoming class for rookie camp in Santa Clara on. Friday.