Banks improving daily in hopes of Year 2 breakout for 49ers


With the departure of Laken Tomlinson in free agency this offseason, the 49ers now need second-year guard Aaron Banks to fill the void left on the offensive line.

And the 24-year-old appears to be up for the challenge.

Banks spoke to reporters after training camp practice on Friday and detailed the strides he has made since being drafted by San Francisco in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

“I think there was a lot of growth,” Banks said of his rookie season last year, which saw him on the field for just five regular-season snaps. “There was a lot of room to grow, and I just kind of came in each day trying to get better, and that’s still the same mindset.

“It didn’t go like what I thought it was going to go like. It didn’t go like what a bunch of people probably thought it was going to go like.”

The 49ers went with Daniel Brunskill over then-rookie Banks at right guard last season after he failed to win the starting job. Coach Kyle Shanahan has previously said the team felt Banks was ready to start at the midpoint of the 2021 season, but then a winning streak kept Brunskill in the position.

Banks took the perceived disappointment of his rookie season “with a grain of salt” and moved on, he said, coming into OTAs this spring a new man. He spent the offseason at the 49ers facility and worked on changing his body into one that would fit in with San Francisco’s zone blocking scheme.

He’s now 13 pounds lighter than he was on the day he was drafted, and moving back to the left side -- where he played at Notre Dame -- in Tomlinson’s absence has helped him feel more comfortable heading into his second season, he said.

“I just wanted to be physically a better player,” Banks said of his offseason conditioning. “I wanted to tighten up and be stronger and be fast, try to be quicker overall. Just be a better athlete, be stronger.”

The 49ers’ offensive line is more active than most under Shanahan’s scheme, and that athleticism will come in handy as Banks prepares to contribute at the NFL level.

“The more you’re in it, the more comfortable you’re going to be with it,” Banks said of the scheme. “I think our room has a bunch of athletes, guys who aren’t just big and can move people but can actually move their own bodies in space.

“The more you’re in it, the better you’re going to be off. I think this year will definitely be a better year for that.”

Banks figures to line up next to left tackle Trent Williams as part of the starting offense, and he noted the All-Pro had helped him with tips and tricks to become a better player. In early June, Williams said Banks had “transformed” his body and applauded his mental toughness.

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That mentality has continued into training camp, where the guard continues to impress opposite San Francisco’s top-ranked defense.

And with Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season just over a month away, the 49ers Faithful can rest assured they’re getting the best version of Banks yet.

“Really just getting better each day,” Banks said. “Not taking these days for granted.”

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