The key for Arik Armstead moving forward with his expanded role on the San Francisco 49ers defense may be to take a step back into his college days.
Just a full season removed from his time at Oregon, the second-year lineman was reunited with the coach who helped shape him into a defensive force as a rookie following the 49ers staff shakeup.
And not Chip Kelly.
The 2016 season will mark the first time that Armstead and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro will reconnect after the former Oregon line coach followed Kelly to the Eagles in 2013 to assume the same position.
As Armstead looks to make a bigger splash along the defensive line, being familiar with Azzanaro’s scheme and techniques may give him a leg up on the competition.
And although Azzanaro can now offer Armstead three additional years of NFL wisdom, the first-round pick stated that it’s felt like his days in Eugene, Oregon.
“He’s got some new stuff to teach us, that he’s learned, being in the NFL now. But it’s a lot of the same stuff really. It’s kind of like being in college again, working with him. It’s funny when the flashbacks happen.”
Azzinaro offers Armstead more than just a familiar face in camp. The longtime line coach brings with him the technicality that has escaped the big-bodied Armstead throughout most of his career.
“A lot of the players who played for him, their technique improves a lot. I’m excited to get back to working with him. It’s been a couple years, so I’ve kind of lost some of what he taught me. So I’m bringing my memory back of what he taught me my freshman year.”
If the six-foot-seven, 292 pounder can add an array of technical moves to his powerful attack, the 49ers may see a productive payoff from their first-round pick in 2015.
Armstead flashed signs of potential last year during a somewhat limited roll during his rookie season. He finished the season with 19 tackles and two sacks.
And the 49ers kept the Oregon pass rush going by drafting defensive end DeForest Buckner with their No. 7 overall pick later this evening.
While Armstead stated he would be paying attention to the draft, he had no insight on whether Kelly looks to pit the dangerous duo against opposing offenses in the NFL.
“If we end up playing together again, that would be awesome. That’s my guy. We motivate each other. If it happens, it does. But I just want what’s best for him, for him to be in a good situation that he wants.”