SANTA CLARA -- While Daniel Brunskill and Jake Brendel split practice snaps and compete for the 49ers’ starting center position, the competition going on at right guard might be even more compelling.
Currently, the battle appears to be Spencer Burford vs. Spencer Burford.
Burford, a rookie whom the 49ers selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft from the University of Texas-San Antonio, has taken all of the first-team repetitions at right guard.
Thus far, Burford (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) is taking advantage of the opportunities he is getting in practice to prove himself as the 49ers look to bolster their line in front of first-year starting quarterback Trey Lance.
“As I said to Spencer, ‘There’s no question, you’re a starting guard in the NFL.’” 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. “I have no doubt. After being here for not even two weeks in training camp, seeing the kid in the offseason, his demeanor, his work, his habits, his strength. Unless he goes off the rails, he’s a starting guard.
“Now, is he a starting guard Sept. 11 (Week 1 at the Chicago Bears)? Is he starting guard in October? Is he a starting guard in 2023? I said to him, ‘Only you will decide that.’”
One big challenge for Burford will come next week when the 49ers play their preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers. Another will come in the two days of practices against the Minnesota Vikings leading into the Aug. 20 game.
Burford appears to be getting into a rhythm with his understanding of his assignments against the defense he faces daily in training camp. While he is up against good talent on the interior of the 49ers’ defensive line, he appears to have a good grasp of his responsibilities based on where the defenders across from him are lined up.
He will face a big test when he sees unfamiliar defenses and faces a variety of alignments, especially on third downs.
“In his progression, he’s doing just what you want him to do,” Foerster said. “He’s learning. He has his mistakes, he learns from them and he doesn’t repeat them. He works every day and gets better.
“He’s a strong kid. He’s young. And he has a lot of development to do.”
Brunskill started every game at right guard last season after splitting time in 2020 at right guard and center. If Brendel wins the starting job at center, the 49ers have the option of moving Brunskill back to guard if it is determined Burford is not quite ready.