SANTA CLARA — Bobb McKittrick, the 49ers' legendary offensive line coach, was Mike Solari's biggest influence. But Solari has already surpassed McKittrick on one measure.
During his 21 seasons in San Francisco (1979-1999), McKittrick was given only one first-round draft choice to work with — tackle Harris Barton in 1987. He was famous for patching together brilliant lines from unheralded talent. Meanwhile, just a few months into his second stint with the 49ers, Solari already has received two first-rounders — tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati, taken with overall picks No. 11 and 17, respectively, in April.
Now comes the real challenge: taking these two prodigies, and the rest of the offensive linemen on the roster, and creating a cohesive, powerful unit out of a line that was flawed in 2009.
If Solari is successful, it will be credited to his intense focus, attention to detail and an emphasis on technique.
"It's all business, 100 percent of the time," left tackle Joe Staley said. "Not saying it wasn't last year, but just the demeanor he brings when he comes into the building, the mentality that he's breeding here. ... When we get on the field and work, the attention to details and the fundamentals, the techniques, it's really going back to basics."
Solari made sense as a candidate to replace Chris Foerster as offensive line coach. To start with, he has a strong resume that includes time under McKittrick for the 49ers from 1992-96 and 11 years with the Chiefs, nine as offensive line coach (1997-2005) and two as offensive coordinator (2006-07). He spent the past two seasons coaching the line in Seattle. He's had Pro Bowl blockers at every stop.
Perhaps more important, Solari favors the physical, straightforward approach that coach Mike Singletary is looking for.
"They're gonna play with an attitude," Solari promised. "Whenever you see a line coached by myself, I think you'll see an effort, an intensity by the offensive line that will exemplify that on the football field. But again, with Coach Singletary, it's something that he looks for, that he expects from his teams. And he allows that, as far as the plays being called."
Solari, who is being assisted by former 49ers O-lineman Ray Brown, didn't simply stamp his scheme onto the line. Before taking to the field, he watched every Niners game from 2009 to get a feel for his new players. That included preseason games, because he wanted to see young players like Cody Wallace and Alex Boone.
Solari evaluated, ranked and compared all his linemen. Then he analyzed existing free-agent offensive linemen and ranked them, too. Then he looked at eligible college players and did the same thing. His input no doubt helped sell Singletary and personnel chief Trent Baalke on Davis and Iupati, the 49ers' biggest new toys.