Maiocco: Stanford playbook gets facelift for 49ers

Maiocco: Stanford playbook gets facelift for 49ers
May 20, 2011, 2:21 pm
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May 20, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comSeveral 49ers offensive players entered the team's Santa Clara practice facility on April 29 to meet with coaches during the brief time the NFL lockout was lifted.Those players exited with the blueprint for the upcoming season.New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh brought offensive coordinator Greg Roman with him from Stanford. But they could not bring the same playbook they authored for the college game.While similar to the offensive system installed at Stanford, the 49ers' playbook has many fundamental differences."It probably took two months to put together the nuts and bolts, but we're always working on it," Roman told CSN Bay Area on Thursday in a phone interview. "We just tweaked some of it this morning."
Roman said the way the team lines up in the huddle is identical. Each position has a designated spot in the oval shaped formation, as the quarterback relays the assignments for the next play.
Other than that, Roman says, "Nothing is exactly the same."Of course, there are many similarities. The language is still Bill Walsh's West Coast system, but the previous playbook had a dialect uniquely tailored for college football.The biggest changes to the 49ers' playbook takes into account the fundamental differences between professional and college football. The hashmarks are closer together in the NFL, which means the starting point for every play is confined to the center of the field.The width of NFL hashmarks is 18 feet, 6 inches. In college, the hashmarks are 40 feet wide. There can be a lot more unbalanced formations in college, Roman said, as well as major considerations on how to utilize the varying space toward the sideline on both side of the football.This difference in where the play can begin has a huge impact because of the spacing on the field. Also, there were necessary adjustments that had to be made in merely describing where the wide receivers line up."The splits are complete different," Roman said. "And how you denote it is different. Lining up 3 yards from the numbers is different in the NFL. In the NFL, the numbers are 12-to-14 yards from the sideline. In college, the numbers are closer to the sideline. The landmarks and the spacing is complete different."In turn, the windows in which a quarterback is instructed to make his throws are shifted accordingly."The entire spacing of the field, the offensive and defensive players, is different," Roman said. "With a slant in college, there might be more space between the next inside defender."Also, "zone read plays" are a big part of any college offense, even the pro-style system employed at Stanford. Those run plays out of the shotgun, spread formation is something NFL teams use sparingly -- often as part of the "Wildcat" without a true quarterback taking the snap.General manager Trent Baalke suggested recently that the 49ers might add some "quarterback-driven runs" to the offense in the future with the addition of Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who rushed for 4,112 yards and 59 touchdowns in his college career.Kaepernick revealed the day the 49ers chose him in the second round that he spoke several times with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck prior to the draft. Kaepernick suggested he was interested in meeting with Luck to learn more about the offensive system he will be entrusted to master.
"He'll be learning the playbook, but obviously, he won't be doing that with Andrew," said Scott Smith, Kaepernick's agent, mindful in the differences in the playbooks.
RELATED: Niners not worried about Kaepernick's procedureBut Kaepernick could derive some benefit from face-to-face sessions with Luck. There is some carry over with the terminology and some of the plays, Roman suggested. And there are close similarities in how the 49ers' quarterback will bark out the cadence at the line of scrimmage.However, there are many aspects of the 49ers' playbook that would be new concepts to players who suited up under Harbaugh and Roman at Stanford.VIDEO: Baalke on Niners' draftee KaepernickPerhaps the biggest assistance Luck could lend to Kaepernick would be macro, rather than micro. Nobody knows better than Luck the process and expectations that await Kaepernick with the 49ers' new coaching staff.