My alma mater, Virginia, held its pro day today. The big fish there, of course, is defensive end Chris Long, who stood up and played some outside linebacker today. Iím going to go out on a limb and say that he probably wonít be available when the 49ers pick. But another player, guard Branden Albert, might. I remember talking about Albert with area scout Todd Brunner, who said that every time he saw Albert he was reminded of Larry Allen. Itís not because Albert can bench press 700-plus pounds as Allen once famously did. Itís because they are both big-bodied guards who wear No. 71. Still, you gotta like the comparison.
Another o-lineman to keep an eye on is Heath Benedict from Newberry College in South Carolina. Benedict opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl where he matched up well against defensive ends from bigger schools. (He also got into a fight, which usually earns a gold star in Mike Nolanís book). Benedict played tackle at the Senior Bowl but he might start out as a guard in the NFL. Benedict showed very good athleticism at the combine, running the 40 in just over five seconds, benching 225 pounds 28 times and jumping 28 Ĺ inches in the vertical jump.
Monday was the first day NFL teams can host perspective draft picks. The 49ers say they will begin that process in the next couple of weeks. They have tentatively scheduled their pro day for April 18. If youíll recall, thatís the day local products Ė those that went to school in the Bay Area or grew up here Ė work out for coaches and scouts. Some names that could be on that list:
∑ Cal receivers Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson
∑ Nebraska OT Carl Nicks (grew up in Salinas)
∑ San Jose State CB Dwight Lowery
∑ San Diego QB Josh Johnson (Oakland)
∑ Oregon QB Dennis Dixon (Oakland)
∑ Stanford QB T.C. Ostrander
Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com writes that Isaac Bruce, Walt Harris and Jonas Jennings are not expected to take part in the majority of the team's offseason program, which began yesterday. Bruce and Harris I understand. They're both 30-something veterans who have been to Pro Bowls and earned the right to work out on their own. Jennings' absence raises my antenna. The 49ers have been resolute in saying that Jennings is part of their 2008 plans and he presumably will compete with Joe Staley for the starting left tackle spot. But Jennings' relationship with Nolan has been rocky, and you have to believe that his missing most of the offseason program isn't smoothing anything over.
***update*** I'm told by the 49ers that Jennings was in town recently but had to return to his home in Georgia to attend to a personal matter. His absence from the team's offseason program is excused.
-- Matt Barrows