Killion: Smith grooming Kaepernick for 49ers


Killion: Smith grooming Kaepernick for 49ers

June 30, 2011

Ann Killion
CSNBayArea.comIts a fascinating exercise in human behavior thats been going on at San Jose State. No matter what some cynical observers think (and that includes you Senior Insider Ratto).The 49ers players, working without paychecks or perks, are trying to get ready for the season. Thats not something we see often in modern sports.Alex Smith is the de facto coach, giving orders and taking charge in one last gasp bid to become the 49ers leader. This is a new, changed Smith. Even Vernon Davis says its a new look for his teammate.VIDEO: Vernon Davis on Chronicle Live
Hes really being a leader out there, Davis told Chronicle Live this week. Thats what Alex shouldve been doing but it takes time for some guys to get to where you need to be.But the most interesting thing is that Smith is also helping Colin Kaepernick the young quarterback who fans are already swooning over get ready to take his job away. Hes doing everything he can to help Kaepernick prepare for the NFL and become the 49ers' starting quarterback.Its not awkward at all, Kaepernick said when I talked to him a few days after the first Camp Alex. Alex is a great guy. Hes said, If I can help you with anything just let me know. Hes been very welcoming and its a good relationship. The situation were in doesnt have to define the relationship we have with each other.Kaepernick, and all the rookies, are in a strange spot. Theyre unable to talk to their new bosses and their first taste of the NFL is coming in do-it-yourself practices at a college facility.MAIOCCO: Smith takes charge at Camp Alex
Its a very odd situation, he said. But at the same time being a rookie dont know what normal situation is. Right now, its not too different from what Im used to coming from college.Kaepernick, finally cleared to play after his mysterious procedure on his left leg (something he declines to talk about), was out there this week. He opted to work with his new teammates rather than go to this weeks rookie symposium in Florida.Thats not surprising if you know Kaepernicks background. Before his senior year in college, the Chicago Cubs offered Kaepernick -- who had been an outstanding high school pitcher -- 30,000 to spend a month throwing bullpen sessions in Arizona so they could check out his arm. Thats a lot of money for a college kid to turn down, but Kaepernick knew he couldnt be away from his teammates.As the quarterback you cant leave your team a month before you go into camp, he said.That same lesson applies now.Coach Jim Harbaugh is following along with the players activities as best he can through the media. Though hed obviously rather have the team participating in organized team activities at the 49ers facility, hes encouraged by what hes seeing. Not just the action but also the motivation behind it.These guys love football and theyre committed to getting in great shape and planning for the future, he said. I think its beneficial for all of them. The players have to organize things, find the field, get the balls, figure out whos doing what, whos responsible for what, what plays are they going to run.I wonder how often this generation of men have had to do that growing up, he added. They were probably over-supervised and over-committed as youngsters.Taking ownership of the team and their own future cant be a bad thing, especially for a group of players who were too often treated like children by Mike Singletary.All the 49ers are starting from scratch, which means that Kaepernick and Smith are dead even when it comes to knowledge of Harbaughs offense.Its a little bit of a good thing in terms of trying to compete for a starting spot, Kaepernick said. But overall its not the best situation because you want to make sure youre doing things the right way, the way the coaches want. But Alex has done a great job translating things to the best of his knowledge.The player with the most insight into Harbaughs system is just up the road at Stanford. Though there were reports that Kaepernick was relying on Andrew Luck for information, Kaepernick said those were blown way out of proportion. He and Luck became friends last summer at the Manning Passing Academy but Luck hasnt been a source of information.We just had a quick conversation, Kaepernick said.For now, Kaepernick is relying on the man he wants to replace.Clearly, the best thing Harbaugh did during his window of contact in early May was give Smith the playbook. Smith has been through six offensive coordinators in his six years with the 49ers, so he knows a little something about installing an offense and trying to translate it. And as a rookie Smith was the beneficiary of a willing mentor in Trent Dilfer so he knows the importance of helping a younger player.Smith may never be the player he was drafted to be. But hes becoming a heck of a coach.And this may end up being Smiths greatest contribution to the 49ers: grooming his replacement.

DeAndre Smelter gets second chance with 49ers

DeAndre Smelter gets second chance with 49ers

SANTA CLARA – Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter is healthy and he’s back for a second opportunity to prove himself.

Smelter was inactive as a rookie last season as he rehabilitated from a torn ACL that cut short his final year of college ball. And the 49ers never really got a chance to see what he could do during the offseason program and training camp due to a hamstring injury.

After he was waived in September, Smelter went unclaimed and never signed with another team. The 49ers brought him back this week to take a spot on the team’s practice squad.

Said 49ers coach Chip Kelly, “It was one of those deals is that you never saw enough of him to really make an accurate decision on, ‘Hey, can he really contribute and help? So, let’s give him an opportunity when he’s healthy.’”

The 49ers drafted Smelter (6 foot 2, 210 pounds) despite his limited college exposure to a passing offense. He played 25 games at Georgia Tech, which runs the triple-option offense. In his final college season, he caught 35 passes for 715 yards and seven touchdowns.

He was considered a project when he began practicing with the 49ers during his first training camp. But he never was healthy for a long enough period of time to develop.

“It was a real serious hamstring injury,” Kelly said. “You feel bad for the player because he’s put so much time and invested so much time coming in and being on IR the first year and getting ready to show us what he can do but then really didn’t have a chance to show us what he can do.

“It happened before our first preseason game, so we never really got a chance to see him in action.”

The 49ers on Tuesday waived wide receiver Dres Anderson from the practice squad to create the opening for Smelter.

Kelly already sees Kaepernick improvement

Kelly already sees Kaepernick improvement

SANTA CLARA – In his second week handling the bulk of the team’s first-team practice snaps, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has shown noticeable improvements, according to his coach.

“Yeah, you can see that,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said Thursday. “I think he played three snaps in the first game, but his last extensive playing time was in the San Diego game, which was our last preseason game, which was over six weeks ago. What you’re trying to do is get him into a rhythm.”

Kaepernick replaced Blaine Gabbert as the 49ers’ starting quarterback a week ago. He will make his second start of the season on Sunday when the 49ers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium.

“I think for any quarterback you’re just looking for consistency,” Kelly said. “The chemistry or the relationship that’s where the receivers are, knowing where, as they come out of their break, where they’re going to be. Is one guy a little bit sharper out of his cut? Is one guy a little bit deeper out of his cut?

“Obviously reading the defense as you go, but just getting a little bit more consistent, a little bit more familiar because he is getting more snaps. Sometimes when you’re the two that’s difficult because you’re not getting as many snaps.”

Kaepernick completed 13 of 29 pass attempts for 187 yards with one touchdown and no interception in the 49eres’ 45-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The game was played in 22 mph wind.

In speaking about Kaepernick’s attributes, Kelly said he believes his quarterback has the necessary throwing touch and anticipation.

“I think he does have anticipation. He does have the ability to throw guys open,” Kelly said. “There’s certain balls you have to put some touch on to throw and I’ve seen that displayed in practice. I think one of the things that’s difficult in terms of grading Colin just from the first game that he played in Buffalo is I don’t think anybody was really accurate. But a lot of that had to do with the weather.

“So, hopefully, back here in the friendly confines of Levi’s, we’ll be in a little bit better situation, a little bit better weather in terms of us throwing the football.”