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Grizzly Adams and more

Jun 9, 2005 at 12:00 AM

The San Francisco 49ers made many a headline with the controversial picks they selected in the 2005 NFL draft this past April. They made a commitment to change with the selection of quarterback Alex Smith out of Utah with the very first overall pick in this year's draft.

What they chose after that was a bit of a surprise for some but calculated to allow Alex Smith the time necessary to conduct plays while being baptized to the fast-paced environment of the NFL.

In the second round the 49ers selected offensive lineman David Baas out of Michigan and in the third round running back Frank Gore out of Miami, but the 49ers had one more third round pick in a move made with the Philadelphia Eagles that landed them offensive lineman Adam Snyder out of Oregon.

Adam was the 31st pick in the third round and 94th overall in this years NFL draft. He has been referred to as grizzly bear and a mountain man all in one in his appearance and his tenacity on the field of play.

"He has taken on that look," said fellow senior lineman Nick Steitz. "He definitely does have that Grizzly Adams look. He's built like a bear and he looks like a mountain man."

The San Francisco 49ers felt that in order to erase the memory of last season, they had to deal with the weakness issues that appeared the most glaring. And all of them started and ended pretty much with their offensive line.

Head Coach Mike Nolan a defensive minded guru with a track record of success inside the NFL, made it clear that the performance of the offensive line last season was very unacceptable.

This draft targeted that need like never before and hopefully will define it as a renewed strength for the future based upon the picks we have made. Oregon's Adam Snyder who stands 6-6, 322-pounds will provide an immediate mean and steady presence on this offensive line.

Adam Snyder a senior out of Whittier, California was recognized as one of the top offensive lineman in the nation. A three-year starter for the Oregon Ducks, he has been voted first-team All-Pac-10 by the league's coaches in each of the last two years. He is a versatile player that has seen action at both the tackle spot and guard spot. He became the 2004 recipient of the Morris Trophy.

The Morris Trophy is a unique award that is given to the outstanding offensive and defensive linemen in the Pacific-10 Conference. The hitch that makes this award so unique is the selection procedure, which has the starting offensive linemen in the Conference voting for the defensive winner and vice versa. It then becomes truly a player's award.

"This was quite an honor because it was voted on by the players of the PAC-10," Snyder said. "Nobody else had a voice in it except the guys that played in it. It's just a real honor to be voted on by my peers."

Adam Snyder provides the 49ers with an instant upgrade from over the offensive line last season in conjunction with David Baas. Mike Nolan a defensive coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens knows that a solid and large offensive line is more able to accomplish its primary mission in moving the ball with large and intense players.

He is determined to provide just that and set a new tone in that that 49ers will provide adequate protection for its quarterbacks and it will become a running team again in that we will block better and provide lanes that once never existed before.

"I actually just got the phone call from one of (the guys) in the office. They said they were trying to acquire a trade and at first, I thought they were talking about maybe drafting me the second day," Snyder said.

"Right when I was thinking about that and talking, the TV switched to the 49ers and it all hit me at the same time. I realized they were trying to get me right now. It was just wild. The best feeling I've ever had."

The 49ers made the right choice. They identified a glaring need and addressed it twice in that it made a statement that it wasn't accepting the status quo. Snyder earned the Morris Trophy while playing left tackle for the Ducks, however being as versatile as he is, he highlighted that as a junior when he started every game at three different positions: left tackle, right tackle and right guard.

Mike Nolan went a step further in hiring offensive line coach George Warhop who will be responsible for getting this line up off the ground and running efficiently. Big free agent Jonas Jennings was signed to take position at left tackle and Kwame Harris will move to right tackle.

Adam Snyder is projected to be the swingman after the release of Kyle Kosier just earlier this year. Anyway you look at his versatility will be invaluable as the opening date draws nearer with each and every day.

"That's a question I have been asked quite a bit. I played tackle in college and feel that that is my best position, but at the same time, I really started to like playing guard," Snyder said.

"I played guard in the Senior Bowl and got to play a little bit at Oregon. There are things I like to do at guard and there are things I like to do at tackle. So, either one of them is perfect with me. I'm ready to go to work."

Adam Snyder's intangibles are many. He is considered one of the best offensive linemen in this draft along with Florida State's Alex Barron and Oklahoma's Jammal Brown. He has majored in Journalism and has recorded 19 pancake blocks as a senior.

He started one of 11 games at right tackle as a red shirt freshman. Stared 10 games at left tackle as a sophomore. Missed the Oregon state game with a separated right ankle. Started all 13 games at left tackle as a junior, with six starts at left tackle, six at right guard and one at right tackle. Started eight of 11 games as a senior.

At 320-pounds he is 15 pounds heavier than normal. Has bench presses 455-pounds and has a twenty-eight-inch vertical leap. His athletic abilities are more than adequate as he excels at the running game, which by the way we didn't have last season.

He is quick off the ball and into his setup. Uses his hands well and has an effective hand punch. Slides well laterally, and understands angles and positioning. He is also able to change directions well but must avoid overextending.

He has been known to struggle a bit against speed and quickness but stays under control and maintains balance. Has good blitz awareness and recognition and is a very tough and aggressive line blocker.

He plays with a mean-streak and stays low and plays with leverage. Has been seen striking with pop and creates movement and works very hard at sustaining and finishing blocks.

He has earned enormous amounts of praise from his teammates and from players on many other teams of competition. He is a very hard worker, studies film and prepares well for every game and has a very quiet personality all on top of that.

He is extremely durable and has nothing but a sprain to show for it. He has tenacity and discipline rolled all into one and is a primary reason that Mike Nolan saw something special inside this guy. Adam Snyder along with David Baas will help this line not only now in the present but will sustain that for seasons to come.

As soon as Mike Nolan thought the offensive line was well on its way to something of a resurrection though one more thing was thrown his way to keep it interesting. Center Jeremy Newberry suddenly was put into a situation where his knee requires immediate surgery to enable him to play pain free for the up and coming season.

In his absence Mike Nolan has had to look at Scott Peters, Norm Katnik and Eric Heitmann as possible replacements for Jeremy Newberry should he become unable to perform his duties as the starting center for the San Francisco 49ers. Surprisingly it has been Heitmann that has turned coaches heads and is adjusting to the sudden change in positions.

"He has had some experience (at center) in his background. When we moved him over there we were just trying the experiment out, but he did a very good job," Nolan said.

"So we're working him in there now. I liked him from the very beginning, he's been committed to everything we've said and want our team to look like. He's worked very hard in the off-season program, he's gotten stronger and he shows up every day to work. He's going to make it hard for someone else."

The San Francisco 49ers took it even a step further by signing Eric Heitmann to an extension on his contract. Heitmann was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2005 NFL season, now he's signed through 2008.

He has been a steadfast fixture on this offensive line since joining the team as a seventh-round pick in 2002. He started 12 games as a rookie and was limited to eight starts in 2003 due to a high-ankle sprain.

The 2004 season saw him start in all 16 games where he saw every snap. Out of all the offensive linemen that played last season he was the only one that displayed tenacity and discipline on the line and worked hard on every snap of the ball.

"We are excited about Eric Heitmann signing a four-year extension. His dedication, discipline and hard work have helped identify Eric as the type of player we want on our team," Mike Nolan said. "His youth, experience and versatility gives us flexibility on our offensive line."

Right tackle Scott Gragg was released just a short time ago. He will be missed in every sense of the word and I wish him well. This was a guy that I personally met and have a great deal of respect for. He was a rock of a man and was a great anchor on the right side of the line for the time he played with us.

His performance dipped some last year though and it was apparent as the season continued on. I haven't seen his performance become a problem up and until last season and some of that I blame on the management and coaching staff that was involved obviously. Under the right setting and circumstances I am positive Scott Gragg will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

Last but not least I want to close by saying this is the best contingent I can imagine for an offensive line. Over time and with playing experience and proper coaching this line should be one of the best in the league barring injury.

I pray for a speedy recovery to one of my favorite players in Jeremy Newberry, because I am positive that he'll do everything under the sun to get back knowing him.

This line will provide protection for any quarterback that happens to be at the helm. It is my hope and all of yours as well that Alex Smith be the one that assumes that position sooner rather than later. I am all for allowing him time to mature and grow into the game from an observation standpoint.

I am confident that Mike Nolan and his staff will make the right choices and the right decisions. The competition in training camp will be fierce and the right individuals will define themselves as July and August approach us. We have encircled Alex Smith with the tools he needs to start and to feel rather comfortable.

We have provided him interior linemen with an attitude and a knack for making plays with fundamental execution. We have provided him quality running backs to hand the ball off to and new and approved threats to throw the ball to as well. This is the plan of Mike Nolan to surround his star quarterback with the weapons of his choosing.

It looks to me like he did just that. I am looking forward to the training camp reports that will soon be transmitted throughout the Bay Area.

It is an exciting time despite the tape controversy to be a 49er fan. We have been put on a shelf and tarnished way too long, now let us rise up and take back what is rightfully ours.
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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