The San Francisco 49ers had a few position battles on their roster, but the two most heated were at wide receiver and inside linebacker. While the depth at wide receiver sorted itself quite nicely and there will still be competition for snaps there, the inside linebacker job is a temporary one until the elite NaVorro Bowman returns in mid-season. Michael Wilhoite was viewed as the favorite to start over talented Wisconsin Badgers rookie Chris Borland due to his experience, but both players made it an incredibly close competition during the preseason.
Today, the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows reports that 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio stated that Wilhoite has won the competition and will start over Borland at the inside linebacker spot next to Patrick Willis. Fangio added that top-notch first-round rookie Jimmie Ward will be the team’s nickel corner, though that was a pretty obvious decision for the Niners.
Wilhoite is an intriguing player, and this will be the 27-year-old’s first time opening up the season as a starter, as he was always logjammed behind Bowman and Willis. It’s his time to shine as the next-man-up, though the instinctive Borland should still be out there, especially since he is a very nice downilll run-stuffer. Last year, Wilhoite recorded 34 tackles, and we can expect that total to double in 2014.