Jeremy Newberry thinks rookie guard Joe Looney will have a head start when it comes to picking up the line calls and protection schemes of an NFL offense. After all, Newberry coached Looney on just that this past winter.
Newberry, who works for Octagon football, which represents Looney, flew to Atlanta in January to give the Wake Forest lineman a crash course in learning how an NFL offensive line works. Newberry came away impressed.
"The kid's really, really sharp," said Newberry, echoing what Jim Harbaugh said after Looney was drafted. "You didn't have to tell him twice. He's also one of the nicest kids you'll ever meet. Very engaging, very well spoken."
Looney will have to be a quick study if he is to win a starting job this summer. He's likely to enter the fray at perhaps the most competitive spot on the 49ers' roster - right guard. Two of the team's 2011 draft picks, fifth rounder Daniel Kilgore and seventh rounder Mike Person, also figure to be in the mix at the position. The team also could add a veteran to the competition, including one from their own squad, Alex Boone.
Newberry feels that Looney has a good shot. He worked with Looney at both guard and at center, which Newberry played for the 49ers from 1998-2006 and which Looney played when Senior Bowl practices began later that month. Not only does the 49ers' fourth-round pick have good size at 6-3, 315 pounds, Newberry said, he's the son of coach - usually a plus when it comes to dedication and work ethic - and he's athletic for his size.
Looney broke a bone in his foot during Senior Bowl practice, and because of that was not able to take part in that game, the combine or any pre-draft workouts. (And his draft stock probably sunk at least a round as a result). But back in early January, Newberry said Looney was consistently running his 40-yard dashes in the 4.9-second range.
The fastest offensive lineman at the scouting combine was Oklahoma's Donald Stephenson, who ran a 4.94-second 40. The top guard in the draft, Stanford's David DeCastro, ran his in 5.43 seconds.
-- Matt Barrows