When the San Francisco 49ers drafted wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, they were aware that there was a core issue with the Arizona State Sun Devil.
Aiyuk attended the NFL Combine with a core muscle issue, which led to a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, although the 49ers and other teams were aware that what the receiver was capable of after his breakout 2019 season.
Now, The Athletic’s Matt Barrows has reported that Aiyuk has completely recovered, while the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch had gotten some recent words from the 49er on his first NFL offseason.
“It was like, ‘I’m on the field right now catching passes from Jimmy G,’” Aiyuk said. “That’s when it kind of hit me.”
On top of that, Aiyuk also talked to Branch about his journey through college to this point, and why being healthy and ready for 2020 has come after climbing through the ranks at Arizona State.
“There were times when I was frustrated because I knew what I brought to the table and I was eventually able to finally display that. It was the same situation I had in junior college. I didn’t play the way I wanted to early.”
Journey through Tempe, Arizona
Playing under head coach Herm Edwards after transferring from Sierra College, Aiyuk didn’t immediately become a standout wide receiver. After all, he had to share and learn from fellow first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry, who joined the New England Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft.
However, when Aiyuk found an opportunity to become the Sun Devils’ No. 1 receiving weapon, he didn’t waste it, going for 1192 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season in Tempe, Arizona.
“Every day I’d get more in tune with the system and what I was doing on every play,” Aiyuk said. “I played in games early when I really didn’t know what I was doing. But once I fully learned the system — and didn’t have to second-guess or think about what I was doing — I could just go out there and play my game.”
Aiyuk helped elevate a decent Arizona State squad to an 8-5 team, making it look easy to get open and make big plays. At the NFL level, however, he’ll need to take another step up.
Shanahan’s Hope for Aiyuk
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan had some words on one of his newest weapons, saying that he and his staff will give the receiver every chance to explode in 2020.
“This guy wants to be great,” Shanahan said. “And I think he has the tools to be great. I think he has the mind-set to be great. And I promise you, schematically, we’re going to give him every chance to do that.”
Something that Aiyuk added in his interview was that a big difference maker in college was his lengthy arms to complement his speed and quickness. At the NFL level, that kind of combination is just as effective.
“I knew I had long arms. I’d never had them measured until I went to the Senior Bowl,” Aiyuk said. “And just so many people were just talking about it. I never realized how long they really were until they started comparing them to guys who are like 6-5 or 6-6.”
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.