Frank Gore: move over.
Alex Smith: to the left, to the left.
Arnaz Battle: don’t even think about it.
Yeah, that’s right, we’re hopping on the bandwagon of the draftee we previously dubbed God Junior. Thanks to Willis’ stellar preseason (and, judging by the photo above, his really intense stare), Coach Nolan announced that Willis will not only be in the starting lineup, but the move will essentially bench Brandon Moore, “the team’s leading tackler last year and by all rights its best defensive player”:
Nolan said the moves were “due to what the rookie has done and not so much what Brandon has done. Brandon has been an integral part of our football team and he’ll remain that.”
From the start of camp, Willis (6-foot-1, 242 pounds) has shown his coaches and teammates why he was named the nation’s top collegiate linebacker and defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference.
“He’s very instinctive, very athletic,” Nolan said. “He covers a lot of ground.” Plus, the coach said, because of Willis’ speed and nose for the ball, he has the ability “to make something out of nothing” when the defense breaks down.
Since the move essentially affects four players, Nolan wanted to make it as soon as possible, for continuity’s sake. The veteran players are understandably disappointed with their benching, but Moore will still get some playing time from the defensive end position in passing situations, so all is not lost for B-Mo.
As for the baby linebacker beast, Willis will also benefit from having one of the NFL’s best linebackers in history, Mike Singletary, on the Niners’ coaching staff. The rook’s already got many of physical attributes and instincts needed to become great; with a little instruction and experience, the sky is the limit.
So, welcome to the Patrick Willis Era.
Shuffle At Linebacker [SFGate]
[Photo courtesy: The Jackson Sun]