49ers Blog and Q&A

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August 8, 2010
Defenders weigh in on Mike Iupati

Two months ago I solicited three opinions of first-round draft pick Anthony Davis from veteran opponents. Now it's time to do the same with the team's other first-rounder, Mike Iupati. David Baas' concussion threw Iupati into the first-team mix a little earlier than planned. The good news is that he's being forced to learn on the fly and his linemates, particularly Eric Heitmann and Joe Staley, are getting used to him and vice versa. The bad news (for Iupati, at least) is that he has to go up against Justin Smith quite a bit.

Smith:

What are your early impressions of Iupati?
JS: "I mean the obvious thing is he's a big guy. Physically, he has all the things you want in an NFL guard. It's a learning curve for him and we're installing (the offense) and things like that. But I think he's going to be a good player."

Is it evident that he hasn't played against top-tier opponents?
JS: "Yeah, but it's the same thing that happened to me my first year. It's a different level. I thought it was even more so from college to pro than it was from high school to college. He's got the talent. He's got the ability. It's just right now ... I was talking to McKillop today, actually, (I interviewed Smith the morning before Scott McKillop got hurt) and he was having fun and he was just like, 'Man, it's so much better the second year than the first year because you know what you're doing and you play faster.'"

Does his power come through when you play against him?
JS: "Oh, definitely. He's powerful. He's got great footwork for a young guy and not really having learned from Solari and those guys yet. So that's only going to get better. That's a positive. If a guy's got no footwork at all ... He's got good footwork. He's got strength, power, all that stuff."

Demetric Evans:

What are your early impressions of Iupati?
DE: "I think he's a guy that's learning. I think he's physical, he's got strong hands. I could tell he really dominated in college because his technique is such that he likes to get his hands on you and stop your momentum. And I know he must have done a lot of that in college. He's going to have to work on his technique a little bit because guys are a lot stronger and a lot more athletic. But for the most part, he's living up to the first-round pick."

What exactly does he need to work on technique-wise?
DE: "At the NFL level, on passing downs, when we say technique we mean shuffling back from the line of scrimmage rather than being so aggressive and trying to get your hands on someone quickly. Because (defensive) guys might not look the part, but they are technically sound. They can swat your hands. They can get you on the inside. That's compared to a guy that sits back on the line of scrimmage and is more relaxed lets the play come to him. Being a rookie and coming from college, that's something he can learn. That's a learning curve. It goes back to what I said early. You can tell he used to dominate in college because his technique right now is to get his hands on a guy and just maul him. He could get away with that because he was physically stronger than those d-linemen"

Khalif Mitchell:

What are your early impressions of Iupati?
KM: "When Mike first got here, he was a guy who was learning. But I've watched him grow. He's come along a long way as far as trusting himself, trusting his confidence, and just knowing he can play at this level. He's a great guy off the field. He's a great guy whenever we're over there going one on one. Before he would just lunge at you and try to grab you. Now he actually has some technique to him. I give a lot of credit to him trusting his coaches, coach Solari."

Has he tried to rely on brute strength early on?
KM: "Of course. But at this level, it's so fast. The play is so fast that you don't have time to think. You need to know where you need to be and get there as fast as you can. Because split seconds mean a block or not being blocked."

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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