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49ers OL Spencer Burford poised for breakout season in Year 2

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jun 2, 2023 at 5:07 PM--

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On a team with as much talent as the San Francisco 49ers, there isn't always much space for rookies to carve out an immediate role, let alone be a starter.

That's why it was impressive that rookie Spencer Burford not only shined early, separating himself during organized team activities(OTAs), but took a starting role as a fourth-rounder.

However, Burford split in-season reps with veteran Daniel Brunskill in a season with ups and downs, questioning the 49ers' belief in his play as a rookie.

But, with Brunskill off to the Tennessee Titans in free agency, the path is clear for the UTSA product to carve out an everyday role in a potential breakout season for Burford during his second season.

Speaking with reporters for the first time this offseason, offensive line coach Chris Foerster publicly shared a vote of confidence for both Burford and right tackle Colton McKivitz, providing clarity that they've got the stranglehold on the starting jobs heading into 2023.

"Well, I'll tell you what, it's going to be exciting for [Spencer Burford]. Both [Burford and Colton McKivitz] were in my office yesterday, because I wanted to give them both kind of the same message of you're not looking over your shoulder right now. This is your job now," Foerster said.

The messaging comes at an interesting time because the 49ers signed veteran Jon Feliciano in the offseason to a one-year, $2.25 million fully-guaranteed contract, perhaps indicating he could compete at the right guard or center spot for a starting role.

That may not be the case, however, given the vote of confidence toward Burford and the four-year, $20 million deal given to Jake Brendel this offseason.

While Foerster acknowledged that he wished Burford would've taken over full-time at right guard last season, he shared nothing but praise for the second-year offensive lineman, speaking levels about his confidence level.

"There're guys here, we brought in [OL] Jon Feliciano, we brought in [OL] Matt Pryor, we've got [OL] Jaylon Moore, we've got [OL] Leroy Watson IV. We've got these guys that are there to compete for this position, but the same thing with Spencer. I said Spence, last year you spent split time with [Tennessee Titans OL] Dan [Brunskill] and it was good for you. And I would've hoped during the year he would've taken over the position, but he never really did. It was always kind of a nip and tuck between the two of them. And Dan had to fill in some games at other positions, so Spence ended up playing more plays. This year, boy, he has come back, looks like a different guy, carrying himself differently. The confidence level, the jump between years one and two for a player if they play is the biggest jump they ever make because you just can't stop what goes on during a season," Foerster said.

Now, it's about developing the consistency for Burford, which was a reason he split reps midseason with Brunskill, and will be a significant factor on whether his breakout occurs in 2023.

"The confidence level, the jump between years one and two for a player if they play is the biggest jump they ever make because you just can't stop what goes on during a season. It's just one game after another game after another game. And about October, your season is usually over in college and now we're playing to February almost, last week of January, so it was so long, it's so much and it doesn't let up. This year I think he's more prepared for the whole process. He knows what it is. I think he's ready to make that step and I say everything to this point as much as you can tell from this, he looks prepared and ready to go," Foerster shared.

For now, it seems the 49ers' offensive line is set in stone with Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, and Colton McKivitz.

While Burford will experience another change with McKivitz at right tackle, it seems like he'll be given the full grasp of the starting job, which should only further accelerate his development.
The opinions 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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