When Alex Boone was asked to move from tackle to guard this spring, he wasn’t happy.
Boone, a 6-foot-8-inch, 303-pounder, had always played offensive tackle. The former Ohio State standout didn’t want to shift to right guard, even though there was an opening for a starter with the departure of free agent Adam Snyder to the Cardinals.
“At first I was not for it in my own mind,” Boone told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch in May. “Now I love it. Anything that can help the team get better, I’m all for it.”
Now, after spring workouts and minicamp, Boone is the front-runner at the position. When the 49ers open training camp later this month, Boone will be penciled in as No. 1 on the depth chart at the position, though 2011 fifth-round draft choice Daniel Kilgore and this year’s fourth-round pick Joe Looney will also be competing for the job, as will second-year lineman Mike Person.
During minicamp, Boone worked with the first team and performed well. Looney, meanwhile, was dealing with a foot injury and wasn’t at full speed. Kilgore also was getting some reps at center – Snyder had been the team’s No. 2 player there – to provide more versatility for the line.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Boone is the front-runner for the job.
“Really, Alex Boone had the first shot at that (right guard) and he’s doing a phenomenal job,” Harbaugh told reporters. “There will be competition of course, but he’s doing outstanding.”
And, now that Boone’s made the switch from tackle to the interior of the line, he’s all for it.
He says the close-quarter battling in the middle is something he’s enjoying.
“It’s a full-day street fight,” Boone told Branch. “There’s somebody that’s going to be in your face, and you’ve got to love it. I’m excited about it.”
Though they may not be starting players this season, Kilgore and Looney figure heavily in the 49ers’ future plans. In 2011, the team moved up to take Kilgore, and in April the team moved up again to take Looney. Looney, a 6-foot-3, 309-pounder from Wake Forest, has experience at both guard and center (he played the position at the Senior Bowl). He’s a very physical player who was reported to have 73.5 knockdown blocks his senior season for the Demon Deacons and 228.5 for his career.
Said Harbaugh: “We believe he’ll be a starter in this league for us.”
Kilgore, meanwhile, played just one game last season but will get his chance this year to fit into the mix on the line with a year of experience in practice and with the departure of Snyder.
When camp opens soon, however, it will be Boone getting the snaps at right guard.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem that a 6-foot-8-inch tower is the perfect fit for an interior lineman pass-blocking in front of quarterback Alex Smith. But Boone doesn’t believe it will be a problem.
“You’re never too tall to play anything, as long as you can sink low enough and you can get leverage on guys,” Boone told Branch. “As long as you can get lower than the guy across from you, you’re going to be fine. That’s the bottom line.”