"Big Bad Baas Man"
May 7, 2005 at 12:00 AM
With the first pick in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft the San Francisco 49ers pick Michigan's offensive lineman David Baas. David Baas was chosen for a variety of reasons by the 49ers with the most important being to upgrade and inject a mean physical presence on the offensive line.
Head Coach Mike Nolan a defensive minded guru in his own right made it abundantly clear that success really starts with a premier quarterback and an even better offensive line.
I view this pick along with drafting Utah's Alex Smith a stunning success. David Baas comes to the 49ers after an abysmal season in which the offensive line allowed 52 sacks on its quarterbacks that were constantly recycled after obtaining one injury after another.
In retrospect the San Francisco 49ers lost an entire season in large part because of the offensive lines inability to protect the quarterback and establish a running game.
The first priority of business then was for the San Francisco 49ers to not only identify the right quarterback for the future but to establish an offensive line with character, intensity and nastiness for the trenches. This is where the games are won and lost folks I have to tell you and it is here that the 49ers want big bad David Baas.
The line suffered a catastrophic loss last season after their very first game when offensive center All-Pro Jeremy Newberry was lost for the season. In came Brock Gutierrez a Cincinnati Bengal offensive lineman acquired as Newberry's primary back up and he utterly failed to match the leadership skills and integrity Newberry possessed which contributed to the demise of the offensive line.
Michigan senior David Baas, of Sarasota Florida was named co-recipient of the Dave Rimington Trophy. LSU senior Ben Wilkerson, of Hemphill, Texas was the other chosen recipient. Both were recognized as the nations most outstanding centers at a banquet at the Rococo Theater, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
This award is the most prestigious award given to the top centers in the college football circuit and instantly rewards that player or players with premium status for the approaching NFL draft.
David Baas brings instant credibility to the San Francisco 49er offensive line in more ways then one. He extends a tradition of Michigan Wolverine offensive linemen graduating on to the NFL like no other.
In fact, he does even more as he is the highest draft choice along the offensive line since 2001 picks Steve Hutchinson (17th, Seattle Seahawks) and Jeff Backus (18th, Detroit Lions) in which they were back-to-back first round selections.
Nothing in my opinion is more important than the center position on a football team. This is the man that makes the calls that propel the team to succeed and is able to counter anything the opposing defense has to throw at you.
He is the one that is ultimately responsible for the lines intensity and execution in cohesion with the quarterback. He promotes the inevitable mold of the other linemen to live, breath and eat smash mouth football at its most crucial moments.
Jeremy Newberry is our man now but David Baas looks to be the future. In fact David Baas looks and acts like a younger Jeremy Newberry in my opinion as he is one of the toughest lineman in the college circuit and is determined to bring that same ferocity to the San Francisco 49ers.
"This is an overwhelming honor. I am glad to be a part of a great group of centers and to share the honor with Ben Wilkerson who is also an outstanding center. When I became a center this year we improved every game, which propelled us into the Rose Bowl. Winning this award is a true example of team work," said David Baas on winning the Rimington Trophy.
On what the center position means to David Baas he added, "It is an important job with a lot of responsibility. The center makes all the line calls and acts as the quarterback of the offensive line. The center has to be a leader in order to be successful."
This five-year old trophy (Nebraska's Dominic Raiola, Ohio State's LeCharles Bentley, Miami's Brett Romberg, and Virginia Tech's Jake Grove are past recipients) is presented by Canon USA, Black & Decker and Power Sentry.
Since its inception the Remington Trophy Award has raised over $300,000 for the awards benefactor, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which is hosted by the Boomer Esiason Foundation that to date has raised over $25,000,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Research.
David Baas is Michigan's offensive team captain having started 30 games at guard for the Wolverines and finished his career by starting at center in just his last nine games.
This is the second consecutive year, that the 49ers have selected a guard in the second round after naming Michigan guard/center David Baas as the 33rd overall pick in 2005. Just one year ago the 49ers, chose in 2004 Alabama guard Justin Smiley who was the first of two second-round selections (46th overall).
Baas, who is 6-foot-4, 319 pounds, is estimated to start at guard for the 49ers based upon his play there over a 30 game stretch versus his nine at center where he won the award. He played at left guard the majority of his time as a Wolverine but quickly became accustomed to the center position over a nine-game stretch.
"I think I played a lot better at guard, but I just love to play the game. I got more confident as the year went on (at center). It seemed natural; it just didn't seem exceptional."
"It's more me because in a sense I feel quicker and maybe I'm more confident at guard," Baas said. "But that comes with experience. I can be a good player at center, but I've worked so much on the details at guard." "I don't mean to grade myself, but I went from an A- type of guard to an A+," Baas said.
"I'm still an A player at center. But the way I handle things, I can learn whatever system I get thrown into quickly. Knowing it's a job and a paycheck more than going for wins and a championship in college, it's inevitable I have to learn my position a lot faster because somebody else is going to want my job."
At the NFL Combine held in Indianapolis right before the NFL draft, David Baas put on a performance of a lifetime in front of many NFL executives and scouts. His speed was very impressive for a man his size even though speed is relatively unimportant for a man at his position.
In the 40-yard dash he recorded a run of 5.02. And more importantly he recorded a time of 1.67 in the 10-yard dash. The later being a great indicator of burst and readiness while in a stance as a lineman. Baas will help dictate the flow of a game with his performance on the field and will be a fresh breath of air that the line is in dire need of right now.
David Baas is a very physical lineman and is a perfect match in a power run game. He can drive and scoop block well and has a lot of experience in the zone scheme Michigan runs.
He displays sound technique, comes off the line well and is quick to get his hands into defenders. He is very tough to shed off once he gets locked on to you and shields defenders well from the play side.
He does a good job of snapping and stepping in as a center, and has picked up the position very well overall. He has the overall quickness, strength and technique to handle a nose tackle playing an O technique or a shaded 4-3 tackle. He has decent open field speed to get out in front on a pull or screen play.
He's also an outstanding trapper and angle blocker, can lock on to defenders well and ride them out of play. His footwork isn't that bad, and shows balance in both run game and pass protection.
He has a true mean streak and is very intense in that he doesn't take plays pr practices off. He has good vision in pass protection and reading ability to pick up twist and blitzes. In other this is a guy that is ready to start immediately at the pro level.
In 2004 he earned Big Offensive Lineman of the Year. Winner of the Hugh H. Rader Award as Michigan's top offensive lineman and is a team co-captain. Started the first three games at left offensive guard before shifting to center.
He led a young offensive line that helped the team average 386.5 yards per game. He was able to produce 88 knockdown blocks, including 12 that resulted in touchdowns.
While an offensive guard, the Wolverines averaged 106 yards per game on the ground, but with his move to center, that figure increased to 189.7 yards per game. His only negatives are stiffness in that he needs more flexibility and needs to play lower in the run game.
He also needs to select his blocks better in pulling situations and is just average overall in space. His only injury history was in 2000 where he sat out the season with a knee ligament sprain.
"He was a team-captain this past season which is important. It shows he's got leadership skills and is a very hard worker, which most offensive linemen are. He comes from a Big 10 conference which is knows for its offensive linemen," Nolan said.
"In particular Michigan is known for great offensive linemen. A lot of high school kids go to Michigan with the intention of playing in the NFL. Certainly his dream has come true in that respect."
With the eventual dismissal of right tackle Scott Gragg from San Francisco and the departure of Kyle Kosier to the Detroit Lions, the 49ers will be counting on David Baas to contribute right from the get go this coming season. He will push immediately for a position along the interior of the offensive line.
"I always rely on technique, but power, aggression and toughness is my game and I love to get after people," he said. "I'm ready to go. I'm fired up."
The position he will be most likely to battle for will be for the right guard position. Here he'll battle a number of linemen as the positions are sorted out between Eric Heitmann, Justin Smiley and Kwame Harris with Jonas Jennings already getting the nod at left tackle as the veteran.
"I played center and left guard (at Michigan), so this is not an adjustment at all. I moved from left guard to center within a week, and I played that for almost a year. I don't think that's going to be hard at all," Baas said.
"I even played right guard in some practices when I was with Michigan. I've had some experience there, just game time experience, but I am fine with that. I can handle anything they throw at me."
What head coach Mike Nolan has made abundantly clear is that the line will provide maximum protection schemes for its quarterbacks in particular rookie Alex Smith who is the hopeful starter in 2005.
David Baas provides in instant upgrade over the departed Kyle Kosier and will exhibit skills and abilities on the par of our very own Jeremy Newberry.
"He looks like a Niner. If you saw his face on TV, you know what I'm talking about, as far as toughness goes. Looking at our offensive line, it was important that we get a guy to compete in that position and hopefully be a starter in a year or two," Nolan said.
"I'm hopeful that he'll push that position, because this group will be together to protect Alex Smith and to make holes for running backs."
Sounds to me like Mike Nolan is saying: "Put up or shut up," in my opinion. He will not tolerate a line that does not perform at a high level. The bar has definitely been raised high in regards to this and I'm proud that he's making the line an emphasis of concern after last year.
David Baas is known as the "Baas Man," in that he's going to get the job done bottom line. I am thrilled to be able to observe this great athlete this season and hope he will become an anchor on the line that will rejuvenate its running game and keep Alex Smith safe from harm as he throws with incredible precision. What more could a 49er fan want for?
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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