Jim Tomsula spoke to the media last night after the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft concluded. He spoke about Arik Armstead and the recent signing of LB Philip Wheeler.
Here is the transcript, as provided by the 49ers’ public relations staff:
As an old defensive line coach at heart, how exciting is it for you to get a defensive lineman that has a lot of high ceiling so to speak in terms of your first round pick?
“It’s exciting. He’s a really good young man and obviously a defensive lineman. I can’t say that we started the whole process, how many months ago, thinking about a defensive lineman. But, [DL] Arik [Armstead] was there. Arik’s a, I think you’ll be very impressed with Arik.”
You said recently that this is the deepest group of defensive lineman that you’ve had in the eight years you’ve been here. You’ve coached a lot of these guys for several years. Why is this the right pick?
“Well, like [general manager] Trent [Baalke] talks about all the time, he’s not picking for need and things like that at the beginning of the draft. He’s getting the board set and everybody collectively and then the board gets set and he’s sitting there looking at the board and he’s working off of the board. But, to your remark of the defensive line, it is the deepest. Where we’re strong we just got stronger, in my belief. Also, as we’re all talking and I’m listening to you talk to Trent, we’re not in a situation where Arik has to come in and plug. So, this is a place where we can bring a guy in that hasn’t had those years in the weight room. That was playing basketball, who’s still young in what he’s doing. And traditionally here, when you come in it takes some training. So, we have that in that room where he’s added. It’s not the stress of a guy coming in and having to fill a hole.”
When you mentioned four-technique, is that specific to the right end in what you’re doing or is that both ends?
“No, that’s both ends. You see us sliding and move in there. So, the guys can play. And when we say four-technique, those guys do kick down, they’ll play some edges on the guard, it’s just that position. People call it a defensive end. But, that gets a little dicey because well a 4-3 D-end looks a whole lot different than that guy. So, we talk about it being a four-technique.”
Can you see Armstead being an edge-rusher at some point?
“I really haven’t looked at him as an edge-rusher, I haven’t. Where I’ve looked at him is that four in base. And when you do watch the tape, you do see a guy that’s that tall where his hips are down and he does get push from the pocket in a nickel defense. Now, is it consistent as you want and things like that right now? No it’s not, but you see it. You’ve got enough reps of seeing it that he can do that. And then with the weight room that just makes it better.”
When you guys brought in DL Lawrence Okoye, 6-6, you talked about how hard it can be for a defensive lineman to be that tall. Here you’ve got a 6-7, 6-8 guy. What kind of challenge is that and what benefits does it have?
“A couple of things. The reason you don’t see them, I believe, and I’m going on opinion here, but the reason you don’t see them is guys that tall usually can’t bend to the level that we need. That is one thing that is very unique in Lawrence Okoye, he can bend. It’s also very unique with Arik that he can bend. So, now you think just the math, the leverage angles and then you get that bend and now you’re up underneath somebody and those arms are long and now you’ve got that extension. So, you’ve got all those angles and pivot points that I talk about and the explosion that can come through that. I think when you can get all of that working together, you can get something going on. And then obviously when you talk about pass-rush and things like that, you’re 6-7 and you can get your hands that high, you’ve got something going on.”
Anything stick out to you when he made his visit here? He said you guys didn’t talk a whole lot about football. Was it was more of a kind of get to know you type thing? “A big thing for me, I don’t know that I talk a whole lot of football with anybody when they come in, in my entire football career. I’m more or less trying to find out about the guy. I’m trying to see if you and I can look in each other’s eyes and communicate. I’m not everybody’s cup of tea and everybody’s not my cup of tea. So, you always have that connection. The one great thing about coaching is when you can feel the connection with a guy, you’ve got to build the trust. It all starts with that conversation. And then find out a little bit about the guy. He is a good guy.”
You mentioned that it’s a plus that he doesn’t have to come in right away and be a star from day one. But, what makes you think he will be a star down the road? What is it about this guy as a D-line guy that you love?
“Again, we talk about the bend. When you talk about all of the measurable, you talk about the bend, you talk about the athleticism, you talk about you see enough plays that he’s got some power and push and explosion. So, when you look at his body, it’s all there. You time and test, it’s all there. Now you meet the guy and it’s intriguing. It’s a nice guy, a good guy. And he’s a competitive guy. You can see that. You can get that out of the conversation. He’s inconsistent in tape and he’s young, so we’ve got to grow it up and he’s got to grow it up. It’s all of us working together and the development of football.”
You have so many defensive linemen on the roster. Is there any plan to do more platooning, to kind of send guys in and out of the game more so than in previous seasons?
“You obviously would like to play guys more in those roles and keep people fresh for when you get into the two-minute drill and you get to the end of the game and you get a win. You always want to do that. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Yeah, that’s a goal that we’re always, that’s why there’s never been a depth chart put in the defensive line room. Everybody that’s up we want to play.”
You’re a defensive line coach, your first, first round pick is a defensive lineman. Did you have influence on this? Were you in there saying get me this guy?
“Today? No. What we did, what I’ve learned here in this process which has been different, I’ve sat through the D-line meetings, had a taste of how that room works, a taste of the evaluation process. I’ve always felt great about the work that I do, that I’m asked to do as a position coach in evaluating, in my meetings, evaluating interviews and all that kind of stuff and getting it in. And then when you go into the big room with the general manager and the scouts. We all sit around and talk about the defensive line in the process. I’ve watched it go through position by position by position. So then that board gets built. So like Trent said, there were, I don’t know exactly, but five or six guys that were there. When that pick comes, there’s five or six guys that are lined up there. When we did the defensive line board, yeah this was a guy that was clearly somebody that you wanted high on the defensive line board. He works it vertically, so when you looked at the whole board there were five or six people at that spot.”
Trent talked about from his experience it’s very rare, it’s hard to find these guys that do what Arik does. Can you just in Lehman’s terms explain what his job description is?
“The quick generic answer is stop the run and hit the quarterback. But, for what we do there’s a lot of technique. There’s a lot of technique that we could sit for an hour and talk about. But, it’s the technique. It’s the vision progressions. It’s the angles and the leverages. We ask more out of our defensive lineman here in terms of seeing more and adjusting to things. We always laugh, when you play secondary when you talk about the skillset, you see things, you see them happen, then you run and then you hit. When you play linebacker, you see them a little quicker, things are happening a little faster, but you see them, you run and you strike. When you play defensive line, you strike, see and run all at the same time. So, that’s why that position, again offensive line, that’s why those positions, it’s very intimate. It’s that far away. If I get into your personal space, if you’re standing next to somebody and get into their personal space you see how comfortable, it’s a weird place to be. It just all happens so fast. And then what we ask to do and where the eyes go and the vision and the leveraging, we ask a lot of them.”
LB Philip Wheeler, Is he an inside or outside?
“If I’ve got to peg it right now, inside is where you’ve got him coming in right now. But, we’ll put him in both of those positions and check it out. But, inside if I were to tell you right now. Don’t hold me to it. I don’t want to make it like that’s it, but he’s a good football player.”
I asked Trent, I’ll ask you, the new-look uniforms, your thoughts?
“Well, I told the O-line and D-line you’ll look thin. I’m always talking to the equipment guy. When you go white, think marshmallow. When you go red you’re thinking tomato when you’re putting it on a guy that’s 5-11, I’m a little heavy right now. So, the black uniforms are slimming. The guys are excited about it. Look, we all get it. That’s where it’s rolling.”