SANTA CLARA Preparing for Colin Kaepernick always has drawn deep sighs from opposing coaches.
Former Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley once said it seemed the Nevada quarterback had grown "to about 10 feet tall" since the last meeting. "He is an intimidating presence," Dooley said in 2009.
"He runs the ball as well as most running backs in the country," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck observed a few days before Kaepernick ran for 97 yards and a touchdown against his squad.
Said Idaho coach Robb Akey later that year: "It won't break my heart to see him gone."
Kaepernick, who rushed for 4,112 yards in four seasons at Nevada, is causing similar headaches in the NFL.
Kaepernick was the surprise ingredient in the 49ers' 34-0 win over the New York Jets on Sunday. He rushed for 50 yards, scored on a seven-yard run in the second quarter and came close to another touchdown in the fourth quarter before wisely sliding at the New York 3-yard line so the 49ers could run out the clock.
As a result, upcoming opponents who already had film reels looped with footage of Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree now must devote valuable practice time to preparing for the speedy, long-legged quarterback with a slingshot right arm.
"Yeah, it's a lot," said Buffalo coach Chan Gailey, whose team visits Candlestick Park on Sunday. "That puts a lot of stress on your defense to prepare for that week in and week out. He's done a good job of running what they've put in and done a good job of keeping it varied so it's not the same all the time."
Gailey said backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen probably would play the role of Kaepernick on the Bills' scout team this week. Thigpen certainly is no sloth. As a senior at Coastal Carolina in 2006, he rushed 113 times for 656 yards and four touchdowns.
Still, that pales in comparison to Kaepernick's 173 carries for 1,206 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior.
"I mean, he can't mimic exactly what Colin is able to do because of his size and speed," Gailey said. "It's like the rest of the (49ers) players. We can't mimic all the players, either. You come as close as you possibly can."
Gailey said wide receiver Brad Smith also could be used to simulate Kaepernick, and that might be a better facsimile. Smith was a running quarterback at Missouri before being converted into a receiver in the NFL.
In his last game at Nevada, Kaepernick joined Smith and former Texas quarterback Vince Young as the only players with 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
While Kaepernick threw only one pass, an incompletion, on Sunday, it traveled more than half the field to Randy Moss. It served as a warning to future opponents that if they sneak their safeties toward the line of scrimmage to stop Kaepernick on the ground, he also can attack deep through the air.
"It ended up being about a 58-yard throw into it wasn't a windstorm but we were going into the wind at that point," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "And his ball powered through it. It gave Randy a chance. It was the right read, too. Of the two options he had, I thought that was the good decision to make that throw."
Kaepernick also lined up as a wide receiver for one play, forcing the Jets to call a timeout when they realized he was uncovered.
Safety Donte Whitner, coming off a week in which he had to prepare both for Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez and the more ground-oriented Tim Tebow, said Kaepernick's performance Sunday will lead to a lot of homework for the Bills and other upcoming foes.
"And that takes their focus off of other things that they're not preparing for," Whitner said. "So that's a good thing for our offense."