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February 25, 2011
All systems go: Gabbert says he'll be a quick study

If Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert is hammering home one point at the scouting combine, it's this: Playing a college spread offense won't keep him from making a quick impact in the NFL.

"When you see guys like Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow - I could go on and on and on about these spread quarterbacks that have had early success in their careers in the NFL," Gabbert said today.

Gabbert, of course, is pressing the point because he figures to be one of the first quarterbacks drafted on April 28. If the 49ers take a quarterback at pick No. 7, he and Auburn's Cam Newton, who also played in a spread system, appear to be the likeliest candidates.

Gabbert said he's been working with quarterbacks guru Terry Shea - he's worked with Bradford, Josh Freeman and Matthew Stafford in previous years -- at Athletes Performance in Phoenix. He said he's been spending the most time taking snaps from center, which he rarely did at Missouri, and dropping back.

Despite working from the shotgun, Gabbert said the Tigers used a lot of play action and that he is well versed in reading defenses. "There were three, four reads 98 percent of the time," he said.

Gabbert is represented by Tom Condon (he also represents Alex Smith), and Condon's clients usually don't throw at the combine. That will be the case with Gabbert, who won't throw until his pro day at Missouri next month.

Gabbert obviously has been well-coached on what to say. "I'm going to go in with the mindset that I'm going to be the starter from Day 1," he said. "That's what quarterbacks have to do."

Gabbert measured in at 6-4 3/8, 234 pounds.

Another quarterback who won't throw in Indianapolis is Alabama's Greg McElroy, who broke a bone in his right hand during last month's Senior Bowl game. McElroy, projected as a later-round pick, was wearing a cast on his hand today.

McElroy is a very intelligent player whose biggest knock is that he's not very tall and lacks athleticism. McElroy measured in at 6-1 7/8 and 220 pounds. While at the podium, he took a hotel key card from his pocket and placed it on his head. "I mean, seriously, you put this on top of my head I'm 6-2," he said.

Alabama doesn't use a pure West Coast offense, but McElroy said their system was similar to the one the 49ers will use in 2011. "A lot of our terminology is similar," he said. "The way we call it, the way we run it, read progressions, the type of sight adjustments, the intricacies within each route. It's a West Coast system for the most part."

The scuttlebutt in the media room is that Newton, who very well may be the star of the combine, won't make his media appearance until tomorrow.

-- Matt 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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