By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
In the latest development in the ever-evolving case at right guard, the San Francisco 49ers say they plan on starting undrafted rookie, Najee Toran, on Sunday in the home opener against the Detroit Lions.
“A lot of the time you get undrafted guys and they don’t just jump off the screen right away to you,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “Kind of the strongest and the most mentally tough are the ones who survive throughout the end. He’s been thrown into a lot of situations through the preseason, got to play a lot through the preseason. The game doesn’t seem too big for him.”
Starting right guard Mike Person (foot) and backup Joshua Garnett (toe) will both be inactive in light of their respective injuries unless they experience what head coach Kyle Shanahan called “miraculous recoveries.”
Toran was an Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 choice in 2017, starting in 13 games for UCLA. He played in 31 games, with 24 starts for the Bruins.
“Our scouts liked him a lot, brought him to our attention,” Shanahan said. “Our O-line coaches liked him a lot when we looked at him through the draft. I liked him a lot. He was available there as an undrafted free agent. We were able to recruit him and get him here. I just liked him because nothing was too big for him.”
After being signed the the 49ers practice squad before the start of the regular season, San Francisco promoted the 22-year-old offensive lineman to their active roster on Wednesday to fill the need for o-line depth, and he will start ahead of Matt Tobin.
Toran has been with the team for OTAs and training camp, while Tobin joined the team on Sept. 3.
“Those guys both got the reps all week, and Toran won those reps,” Shanahan said. “Yeah, he did a better job, and I think it’s a huge advantage for him that he’s had a lot more experience and knows what’s going on. Any time you have more experience in a system and have gotten more reps, there’s a huge advantage for you and I think that’s what helped him win that spot this week.”
Both Tobin and Toran took center snaps this week, just in case.
“Obviously, Person can do it if he’s able to go on game day,” Shanahan said. “You only have so many options, but someone is going to have to do it so you’ve got to be ready for everything.”
– Starting free safety Adrian Colbert (hamstring) is listed as questionable after being limited in Friday’s practice.
If Colbert does not start, the likely candidate to step up in his place would be rookie defensive back D.J. Reed, who is listed as the backup at free safety on the 49ers depth chart.
Reed, the 49ers fifth-round pick in 2018, played 24 games for Kansas State over his two-year career as a Wildcat.
Over the course of those two season, Reed recorded 106 tackles, seven interceptions and one touchdown.
– 49ers inside linebacker Elijah Lee is also expected to make his first NFL start on Sunday after the 49ers placed LB Brock Coyle (back) on injury reserve earlier this week.
Lee, the former Minnesota Vikings seventh-round pick, will be the 49ers next option in place of Malcolm Smith (hamstring) and Reuben Foster (suspension) as depth is clearly becoming an issue at several positions.