Now that the 2014 NFL Draft is finally over it’s a good time to reflect on the San Francisco 49ers draft class. A class that features 12 rookies you can be sure not all will make the team in 2014. And despite the local media getting a glimpse of their character through numerous conference calls just moments after they were selected no one really knows for sure how they will pan out at the next level. However, one player I am extremely high on is third-round pick (No. 77) ILB Chris Borland. A high character player with the determination, motivation, and drive to be a true student of the game, you can be sure Borland will not only make the 53-man roster but play a significant role his rookie season. We had the opportunity to catch up with the former Wisconsin linebacker as he touches on a variety of topics ranging from his skill set to what he brings to the 49ers.
Did you have any inkling that you’d go to the 49ers?
“No, I really didn’t know. I met with coach [49ers head coach Jim] Harbaugh and the staff at the combine, but other than that I had no clue.”
You must know their situation at linebacker right now. What are your thoughts of perhaps playing next to LB Patrick Willis early on in the season?
“Well, I expect [LB NaVorro] Bowman to make a comeback. He’s a great player and it’s just still way too early to look that far. I think San Francisco’s got a proven coaching staff and a bunch of proven players on defense. So, I’m just going to find my role and play whatever that is.”
Do you have any experience lately at playing special teams?
“Yeah, I was on our punt team this past season for a little over the first half of the season. So, that was my most recent experience. Prior to that, I played on the kickoff team a little bit in 2013.”
Both of the 49ers inside linebackers, if Bowman’s healthy, are known for their sideline to sideline speed. What would you say your biggest strengths are as that inside linebacker?
“I’ve always felt like I’ve got a great feel for the game. I really approach it as a student and I try to know everything I can. I think that really shows on my film. Take great angles, understand what the offense is trying to do and what we’re trying to do defensively, so that’s my strong suit.”
When will you be able to move out here full-time?
“I’m not quite sure yet. I don’t have anything holding me back. I don’t have a girlfriend and I don’t have anything else going on. So, the number one priority is to get out to San Francisco and to get to work as soon as possible.”
As far as the final exams, have they taken place at Wisconsin?
“I graduated in December, so that’s not an issue.”
So, you can be here on Monday?
Do you want us to advertise the fact that you don’t have a girlfriend yet?
“No, don’t worry about that. I’ll figure that out.”
Are you an admirer of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman? Have you had a chance to watch them play much, and if you have, what’s your take on how those two guys work together?
“I’m very much an admirer of the way those guys play the game. I’ve gotten a chance, Bowman was at Penn State while I was at Wisconsin, so I obviously looked up to him as a young player in the (Big Ten) Conference. Then we’ve gotten a little bit of exposure to those guys and that defense when we had a switch to 3-4. We watched some of their film. We actually implemented a few things the Niners do on defense. So, they’re two of the best in the league and I’m looking forward to learning from them.”
Are your schemes similar?
“We had a lot of different wrinkles in our scheme and I know we just put in a few pressures that they had. But, absolutely as far as those individual pressures themselves they’re ones that we got from the Niners.”
The Niners ask their inside backers to do quite a bit of pass coverage. Has that been a strength for you? Is that something that you do a lot of at Wisconsin?
“Well, I didn’t do a lot of it at Wisconsin. I rushed the passer a lot. But, I think that was because of my skills as a pass rusher not because of any deficiency. I think I showed at the Senior Bowl that I’m a more than capable coverage linebacker and I’m excited to show that in the NFL.”
Did you rush the passer from the outside in that 3-4 ever?
“In the 3-4 it was more up the middle. We had a package that was I guess 3-3-5 a couple seasons ago and out of that package I rushed off the edge. But, this past year it was more up the middle.”