While Aaron Banks may be the first-year San Francisco 49ers starting guard who receives most of the hype for his impressive second season with the team, Spencer Burford, the player John Lynch drafted in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft out of UTSA, has quietly completed a very effective rookie season. Appearing in 16 games with 16 starts, Burford ultimately played 73 percent of the Niners’ offensive snaps over the 2022 regular season, splitting time at right guard with 2021 starter Daniel Brunskill.
When asked about how Burford has performed over his rookie season during his Wednesday media availability session, Kyle Shanahan complemented his rookie starter for his hard work and effort.
“We were excited with how he came in and really tried to get that spot,” Shanahan said via 49ers WebZone. “Especially with some guys hurt, he got a ton of reps at it back to OTAs and training camp, and he’s come in and been thrown into the heat of battle, had one setback with an ankle injury about a month ago, but he’s also had a real good guy behind him in [OL] Dan [Brunskill], and every time Dan goes in he does a good job too, so he’s been pushing throughout the year, and I think it’s been great for Spencer to make it through all this year. How long it is for these rookies to do it at a high level and I think he’s continued to get better, and I still think he can get a lot better though also.”
If Burford can get “a lot better” moving forward, 49ers fans should be jumping for joy, as their favorite team will have a starting guard locked up on a rookie-scale contract for the next three years.
Kyle Shanahan is Proud of the San Francisco 49ers’ Offensive Line
Asked to elaborate on the offensive line as a whole and their overall effectiveness, Shanahan was equally complimentary of his entire unit and their coach, Chris Foerster, for setting the team up for success.
“I think the pride they’ve taken in everything,” Shanahan said. “Those guys, those guys are the hardest on themselves out of any position group we have. They always are looking to get better. They’re always, anytime they miss something, they’re hard on themselves. The way that they practice, the way they do individual. That group, [offensive line coach] Chris [Foerster] has done an unbelievable job with that group. Trent being the older guy and the superstar of the O-line position, he’s been an unbelievable leader just by how he works and practices and plays and then all the guys, to me, just every time that they’ve struggled with something, they’ve corrected it the next week and really just focused on football all year and they’ve played at a very high level.”
No wonder Foerster is being linked to open head coaching jobs after his exemplary fourth season with the 49ers; his impact on the team has been notable since signing with the team in 2019 after a two-year tenure with the Miami Dolphins. Fortunately, fans shouldn’t be too surprised about how well San Francisco’s young linemen have played in 2022, as Foerster was complementing Burford and company all the way back in August.
Chris Foerster has Been a Spencer Burford fan for Months
Before Burford made his professional debut in September, he already had a fan in Foerster, who knew he had a starting-caliber guard on his hands during training camp.
“As I said to Spencer, ‘There’s no question, you’re a starting guard in the NFL.'” Chris Foerster said via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I have no doubt. After being here for not even two weeks in training camp, seeing the kid in the offseason, his demeanor, his work, his habits, his strength. Unless he goes off the rails, he’s a starting guard.”
“Now, is he a starting guard Sept. 11 (Week 1 at the Chicago Bears)? Is he starting guard in October? Is he a starting guard in 2023? I said to him, ‘Only you will decide that.'”
Fortunately, Burford still was a starting guard in October and started both of the 49ers’ games that took place in 2023, too, even if that isn’t what he meant in the comment. Though Burford’s rookie season wasn’t perfect, as he did have to cycle into and out of games with Brunskill down the stretch, few rookies are perfect right out of the gate. No, for Foerster, it’s all about progressing along the journey.
“In his progression, he’s doing just what you want him to do, He’s learning. He has his mistakes, he learns from them, and he doesn’t repeat them. He works every day and gets better,” Foerster said. “He’s a strong kid. He’s young. And he has a lot of development to do.”