Daniel Brunskill is competing to win the starting job at center against Jake Brendel.
Meanwhile, fourth-round rookie Spencer Burford has been taking all of the reps at right guard. It looks like the 49ers have it entrenched in their minds that Burford is the starting guard while they see who can look the best at center.
“I think Dan can actually be better with getting less reps,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Not getting as much wear and tear on his body. Dan knows how to play. He's figured out every position we've asked him to play since he's been here. And now he's trying to figure out center to see what the options are there.”
Winning the starting role at center is pivotal for Brunskill. Burford has taken over his right guard starting spot, so it’s essentially “boom or bust” as a starter for Brunskill at center. If he doesn’t win it, then Brunskill will be relegated as a backup. He’ll end up being just a player they bring up when they want to run an extra offensive lineman. Quite the drop off for a guy who’s been a starter the last two seasons and was a good constant on a playoff run last year.
However, all is not gloom and doom for Brunskill.
Regardless if he wins or loses the starting center competition, he has a chance to find himself as a starter at either guard position. That is something Kyle Shanahan has no worries with Brunskill should the need arise for him step in there, but for now he wants the young guys to get battle hardened.
"Burford can't get enough reps, Banks can't get enough reps. When you have guys who haven’t played a lot, they need to be out there a ton and that allows us to do that," Shanahan said. "I'm very glad that if it doesn't work out for one of those guys, it's not like, oh man, Dan hasn't practiced there. Dan can hop in there right away.”
Should either Banks or Burford miss time due to injury or are complete liabilities out there, Shanahan will have no qualms about pulling them in favor of Brunskill. The bigger picture here is for the 49ers to get return on investment with Banks and Burford. Remember, Brunskill was a free agent signing who was coming from the AAF.
The 49ers have no reason to view Brunskill as an indefinite starter. He’s more of a security blanket and is poised to be the a “swing offensive lineman” since he has played all over the line. The remaining practices the 49ers have and the preseason will be his opportunity to stake his claim as the starter.
Otherwise, he’ll have to wait until someone underperforms to become a starter again.