49ers with Matt Barrows

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Mini notes: Lattimore more explosive; undrafted rookie stands out

06/17/2014 5:57 PM

06/17/2014 5:57 PM

The 49ers just wrapped up Day 1 of their mandatory minicamp, and while everyone on the team (not named Vernon Davis and Alex Boone) was on hand, there were a number of players who didn't practice. Long-time veterans Justin Smith and Frank Gore, for example, continued their OTA habit of working out at the team facility but not going through practice.

All of the receivers went through individual drills, an indication that they are healing from the tweaks and strains suffered in OTAs. But Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson (hamstring) and Jon Baldwin did not take part in any team or 11-on-11 functions today. Which is all a long way of saying that while Davis and Boone may be missing classroom time, they have plenty of company as far as missing the action on the field.

The other players who did not practice included NaVorro Bowman (ACL), Anthony Davis (shoulder), Ian Williams (ankle), C.J. Spillman (hand), Chris Culliver (ACL; he warmed up with the team) and rookie Aaron Lynch (hamstring). Draft picks Jimmie Ward (foot), Brandon Thomas (ACL), Keith Reaser (ACL), and Trey Millard (ACL) continue to rehabilitate from injuries suffered in college.

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On the field? Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek got the bulk of the work at tight end with Davis absent. Both made several catches, and Celek had one of the best of the day when he hauled in a fireball from Colin Kaepernick in the back of the end zone during red-zone drills. McDonald made some nice receptions but also had two drops.

Fellow tight end Derek Carrier, who received praise from Greg Roman earlier in the day, seemed to suffer a minor strain early in the session and did not take part. Carrier is a former wide receiver who is trying to become a better blocker. Roman said he added strength this offseason without compromising his considerable athleticism. He'll be someone to watch in July and August.

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Earlier in the day, Jim Harbaugh said there was a four-way competition to be Colin Kaepernick's backup this year among Blaine Gabbert, Josh Johnson, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and rookie Kory Faulkner. However, the pecking order has been the same in OTAs and minicamps – Gabbert gets repetitions after Kaepernick, followed by Johnson and Bethel-Thompson. Faulkner gets only a few scant reps a practice.

The starting wideouts today were Anquan Boldin and Brandon Lloyd. Boldin spent a lot of time in the slot as he usually does, and he had a nice touchdown catch during red-zone drills over slot cornerback Darryl Morris. Morris and Perrish Cox will get just about all of the nickel cornerback repetitions this week now that Eric Wright has retired and while Ward continues to sit out with his foot injury.

Marcus Lattimore looks noticeably better and more explosive than he did two weeks ago when he was recovering from a hamstring strain. He caught an out pass early in practice and burst up field. It's hard to say whether Lattimore is 100 percent – I've never seen him practice in person until last month – but he certainly is making progress. Fellow South Carolinian Bruce Ellington had a strong practice while working both wide and out of the slot. He’s extremely quick and slippery when the ball is in his hands. Receiver Devon Wylie (Granite Bay) also stood out at times.

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The defensive player of the day? It may have been undrafted safety James McCray from tiny Catawba College. McCray, a big-bodied safety at 210 pounds, broke up a couple of passes during red-zone drills, then nearly made a diving interception during 11-on-11 drills. He's certainly a longshot to make the squad, but he has some ability as a special teams coverage specialist as well.

Tony Jerod-Eddie, who was filling in for Ray McDonald at left defensive end, had a series of strong plays during a two-minute drill at the end of practice. He thwarted a run by Kendall Hunter (who has been the de facto starting tailback), then batted down a Kaepernick pass to the quarterback's right. Harbaugh called the defensive line a position of strength on the squad, and Jerod-Eddie is one of the reasons why.

Et cetera – Joe Looney and Jonathan Martin continued to fill in for Boone and Anthony Davis on the right side of the line. Adam Snyder took some snaps at right guard, too. Roman said that Martin also has taken some snaps at guard this spring and that the 49ers feel he has the ability to play both spots.

* LaMichael James and Cox were the only two players who returned punts during a brief special teams drill.

* Lloyd seems to be a fan of the World Cup. Upon seeing a loose football on the field, he ran up to it, kicked it soccer style and then slid onto his knees in a mock celebration. Gooooooooaaaaaaal!!!

About This Blog

Matt Barrows 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 Sacramento Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the San Francisco 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green. Reach Barrows at mbarrows@sacbee.com.
Twitter: @mattbarrows

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