Smart, big-armed quarterbacks that have been coached up by Bay Area passing guru Roger Theder? The 49ers now have two rookies who fit that description.
The team today signed McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who played at Sacramento State and who most recently has been moonlighting as a backup for the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena League. Bethel-Thomson (6-3, 230) will be put to immediate use. He and second-round draft pick Colin Kaepernick, who also was mentored by Theder, are the only quarterbacks currently on the roster.
Moreover, they are the only two quarterbacks who can take the field when practices begin Friday. Veteran Alex Smith is expected to sign his one-year deal Friday, but like every other veteran free-agent signee, he cannot take part in any practices - full pads or walk-throughs - until the league year begins Aug. 4. The team also released veteran David Carr today. That's why the 49ers needed to add someone like Bethel-Thompson.
Theder believes he's more than a "camp arm." "He reminds me a little of Jim Plunkett," Theder said. "He's got the same sort of tools, maybe a little quicker arm. I think he'll be a good addition for the 49ers. He's smart and he's tough, and those are the things you want in a quarterback." Theder said Bethel-Thompson has a big arm, but it's not quite as strong as Kaepernick's, who had the most powerful arm in this year's draft.
A San Francisco native, Bethel-Thompson played at that city's Balboa High School. He was recruited both by Walt Harris at Stanford and by Jim Harbaugh at San Diego but committed instead to UCLA. He spent two seasons there before transferring to Sacramento State. His sophomore and senior seasons were cut short by injuries.
In February Bethel-Thompson signed on with the SaberCats. His stats this season: 20-43 for 220 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Theder, however, doesn't feel as if it's the right league for Bethel-Thompson. "His arm is too big for that arena league," he said.
-- Matt Barrows