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News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

June 11, 2011
Player-by-player review of Camp Smith

Here's a player-by-player look at the offensive players who took part in the 49ers offensive minicamp, which wrapped up on Thursday:

Quarterbacks
Alex Smith
: He organized and conducted the practices. Smith seemed more in command than he's ever been and got high marks from every teammate save one. Smith also looked sharp in the practices and afterward said he was working to correct some of the areas - foot placement, ball security, playing too rushed - in which he lapsed last season. In my opinion, Smith's offseason is beyond reproach. He's done everything right. Then again, he's been like that every offseason. It's the regular season that has given him problems. A notorious slow starter - in both games and the season - Smith must have a fast start this year.
David Carr: He's been practicing and working out alongside Smith in the San Jose area the last three weeks. Like Smith, he looked sharp in this week's session, though all of the quarterbacks' passes were against air, not defenders. Carr said he was told by the coaching staff there would be an open competition for the starting job. However, like last year it's hard to see him overtaking Smith, who clearly has the backing of the coaching staff and the players.
Colin Kaepernick: Due to an undisclosed injury, Kaepernick hasn't yet been cleared for full practices. He's been throwing some warm-up passes for the last couple of weeks but has not been stepping into throws or showing off his big right arm. The elongated throwing motion that is apparent in a lot of his college game film was shortened when he was at the Senior Bowl. And it appeared shortened during warmups this week. Meanwhile, Kaepernick has been soaking up as much information as he can from Smith, who is happy to oblige. The pairing promises to be a good one.

Running backs
Anthony Dixon: He was his happy and exuberant self during the practices. The practices mostly focused on the passing game. All three of the 49ers running backs are capable of having an impact there. Dixon, in fact, played out of a spread system at Mississippi State and is a very good receiver out of the backfield.
Kendall Hunter: Like any rookie, Hunter's biggest challenge will be mastering pass protections. Smith and the 49ers started to get into that area during the minicamp, which made it a worthwhile experience for Hunter, a guy who likely will make his mark on third downs as a rookie.
Moran Norris: Frank Gore's top lieutenant was on hand for the practices. Jim Harbaugh promises to use a lot of multiple-tight end formations like he did at Stanford. However, the playbook obviously has plenty of plays that involve the fullback as Norris was active over the four-day session.

Tight ends:
Nate Byham: Byham was drafted for his blocking ability and was used primarily as a blocker last year as a rookie in the Raye-Singletary battering-ram offense. That role is unlikely to change under Harbaugh, who also loves the power game. The question is whether Byham's receptions - five in 2010 - will increase under Harbaugh.
Vernon Davis: Davis called Harbaugh's offense "tight end friendly" and was active in the passing game, including the down-the-seam pattern that has been Davis' bread and butter the last two seasons. The "11-85" connection, as Davis once put it, seemed to be in good shape on Thursday.
Delanie Walker: Walker, who has been working out at Mt. SAC in Southern California, also promises to have a big role in Harbaugh's offense. Walker told SF Gate's Kevin Lynch that he will be working more out of the slot position than he has in years' past, and indeed he caught a few passes in that role on Thursday.

Wide receivers:
Michael Crabtree: Crabtree, of course, practiced on Monday but only took part in the classroom session Tues-Thurs because of sore feet. The problem didn't appear to be serious. Crabtree was walking around without a limp on Tuesday and Wednesday. While he defended Crabtree, Alex Smith also acknowledged having on-field chemistry issues with the receiver. Those issues have not been addressed so far this offseason despite the fact that Crabtree has been training only a short distance from where Smith and others have been working out. Crabtree said he would head back to Texas shortly.
Ted Ginn: Ginn is one of several 49ers who had already spent time with Smith this offseason prior to the offensive minicamp. I asked Smith who stood out in the sessions, and he pointed to the wideouts, including Ginn, who were able to soak up everything he threw at them. Smith sounded very optimistic about the group as a whole. The question for Ginn this season is whether he'll have a more expanded role as a receiver than he did under Singletary. Ginn, who caught at least 34 passes in each of his three seasons in Miami, had only 12 last year to go along with one receiving touchdown.
Ronald Johnson: After spending 10 days catching passes from Smith in early May, the rookie was back for the four-day session. Johnson is eager, and he also is familiar to new receivers coach John Morton, who coached him at USC. In other words, Johnson is in an excellent position to be a contributor as a rookie.
Kevin Jurovich: Jurovich, a South Bay native, has been perhaps the steadiest offensive participant in the San Jose State workouts, and his playbook knowledge showed over the four-day session. Jurovich and Josh Morgan were de facto assistant coaches to Smith throughout the sessions. Jurovich also is quick and has excellent hands. As reported previously, the 49ers have asked him to gain some weight and he has obliged. He is about 195 pounds after spending his rookie season last year at 185.
Josh Morgan: Morgan is the strongest and perhaps the most athletic of the group. He's heading into his contract season and, as always, is in excellent shape. Morgan may not have a monster year compared to other NFL wideouts, but he's one of the players who promises to benefit the most from a more effective offensive system under Harbaugh.
Kyle Williams: He's the most quick and fluid receiver on the roster, a guy who catches passes and then breaks downfield without changing gears. But Williams' rookie bugaboo - staying healthy - already crept up in the non-contact, non-padded practices. He strained his hamstring Thursday and had to leave practice.
Dominique Zeigler: Give Zeigler credit for showing up and taking part in the four-day session. He's still recovering from an ACL tear suffered last year and has not been cleared to run routes. But he hung around the practices and absorbed as much as he could.

Offensive line:
C David Baas: Baas flew in for the final day of practice and he said he hoped to be on hand if Smith holds another minicamp later this month. The 49ers need him back and he wants to return. Therefore, he's essentially in the same boat as Smith - a free agent in name alone.
T Anthony Davis: Given his conditioning, or lack thereof, as a rookie last year, Davis had to be atop the list of players that 49ers coaches were worried about during an extended lockout. Davis is not going to win any marathons - or conditioning drills - but it's clear that Davis has remain dedicated this offseason. His teammates were impressed. And 49ers coaches, who have been gobbling up any morsel of information about their players, had to be relieved by the reports coming from the minicamp.
G Mike Iupati: You may not have read this before, but Iupati is one big dude. Like the rest of his line mates, he lost weight this offseason, but you would never know it. Like Davis, Iupati has dedicated his offseason to getting stronger.
G Daniel Kilgore: He and fellow rookie Mike Person were in wide-eyed learning mode throughout the camp. But they took lots of notes and seemed to be in good shape. Both lined up at guard during offensive line drills. Kilgore was wearing a brace on his left wrist.
G Mike Person: See above.
C/G/T Adam Snyder: Snyder has had perhaps the most dramatic bodily transformation of any 49er. He's right around 300 pounds and appears much quicker than he's ever been before. Snyder is almost guaranteed to be in uniform on Sundays because he can play every position on the line. He's started games at both tackle and guard positions. This offseason, he's handled most of the snapping duties. He could be the top back up to Baas when the season begins.
T Joe Staley. Staley also is right around 300 pounds, which is what he weighed as a rookie out of Central Michigan. Staley tried getting heavier in recent years but felt he lost quickness in doing so. His foot speed has returned this offseason. The difference between now and when he was a rookie, Staley said: He's a lot stronger.

-- Matt Barrows



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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