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August 2, 2007
Camp observations, Aug. 2

With Frank Gore (hand) sitting out practice and Michael Robinson (dehydration) taking it easy this morning, the 49ers' No. 1 running back was Maurice Hicks. At a little over 200 pounds, he's the smallest running back on the team, but Hicks hits the hole like a Mack truck. Hicks acquitted himself very nicely in short-yardage situations early in practice and caught a quick screen pass from Alex Smith for a touchdown during a goal-line drill.

Another back who hits the hole well is Zak Keasey, who is close to 245 pounds after playing at 235 last year. Keasey is a long shot to make the team, but he might have a chance if he stands out on special teams. Rookie Thomas Clayton has taken his lumps over the past few days from assistant coaches and aggressive defenders. You have to give the rookie credit for not getting down. He takes a licking, gets up, and keeps on running. The team signed another running back, Arkee Whitlock, who took part in practice this morning. He is wearing No. 29.

Isaac Sopoaga was the team's starting nose tackle for most of the morning while Aubrayo Franklin rested a sore elbow. He will have an MRI on it today. Sopoaga has looked very good at times, not so hot at others, which has been the book on him since he was drafted in 2004. Yesterday, he was driven backward five yards by center Tony Wragge on a short-yardage drill - not what you want from a nose tackle.

Marcus Hudson is a big, physical cornerback who seems like he would be an excellent asset in the running game. However, he was beat on consecutive plays this morning, first on a deep pass from Trent Dilfer to Ashley Lelie then on a crossing pattern from Dilfer to Darrell Jackson. Dilfer, by the way, looks very sharp this summer.

Bryant Young sat out after practicing Wednesday. Coach Mike Nolan said his back was not 100 percent.

-- Matthew Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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