49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

June 5, 2009
Mandatory minicamp is underway

Ok, it's not earth-shattering news. But it is notable. In all the OTA's and minicamps heretofore, both Shaun Hill and Alex Smith have worked with the first-team offense but Hill always has received first crack. Today, it was Smith who trotted out the first time for 11-on-11 drills. Mike Singletary said the quarterbacks would continue to rotate until coaches settle on a starter.

"I think the coaches are going to try to make it as fair as possible, making sure that Shaun [Hill] and Alex [Smith] get their reps with the first group and just continue to go forward there," he said. "Right now, it really doesn't mean anything. That guy (the ultimate starter) has to step up at some point in time and he will. They are making strides, so we are excited about that."

I posted on Twitter earlier today that the 49ers had a full house for the opening of their three-day mandatory minicamp. That's technically true. A better way to put it is that there were no unexcused absences. Rookies Alex Boone and Pannel Egboh were not present because their schools have not yet graduated. Cornerback Nate Clements is still trying to get over pneumonia and Walt Harris tore his ACL. Four 49ers worked out with trainers today: Arnaz Battle (foot), Michael Crabtree (foot), Ray McDonald (knee) and Shawntae Spencer (knee).

Strong safety Michael Lewis participated in individual drills for the first time this spring. However, he gave way to Mark Roman during team (11 vs. 11) drills. Tackle Marvel Smith (back) continues to take part in individual drills but not team drills.

As far as Crabtree, Singletary reiterated today that the expectation is for Crabtree to begin practice on the first day of training camp, which likely will be July 30. Until then, Singletary warned that he didn't want to see Crabtree doing anything the trainers don't want him to do. One thing Singletary does want to see: Crabtree being extra tight with receivers coach Jerry Sullivan. "When Jerry Sullivan goes to sleep, I want him to tell Michael Crabtree to get out," Singletary said. Crabtree seems to do a little more with trainers with each practice session, although he has yet to resume running.

Singletary had very high praise for Kentwan Balmer, who is currently backing up Isaac Sopoaga at left defensive end and is the team's third option at nose tackle. Singletary praised Balmer for attending both the veteran minicamp and rookie minicamp in succession. "He was the only veteran - the only veteran - I couldn't run off (from the rookie minicamp)," Singletary said. The coach also noted - and this is significant - that Balmer has worked out with Justin Smith all offseason. Smith is a relentless worker both on the field and in the weight room.

Some notes from practice: I thought Alex Smith had the prettiest pass of the day. Michael Robinson got a step on linebacker Jeff Ulbrich coming out of the backfield, and Smith hit him in stride on a 25-yarder down the right sideline.

Josh Morgan mostly played "X" receiver last season. In the past couple of weeks, however, he's played mostly at "Z." Today, for instance, he was the "Z" and Jason Hill was the "X." Why is this significant? Well, if Crabtree eventually moves into the starting lineup this year, he will do so at "X." Having Morgan well-versed at "Z" will allow the team to get their most dangerous wideouts on the field at the same time.

Nate Davis compares himself to Donavan McNabb. I don't know if it's his number - No. 7 -but to me he looks like Byron Leftwich. He has the same thick body, the same powerful arm. The big difference is that Davis has a very quick release. I watched Davis throw passes to the tight ends today. Coaches are working primarily on his footwork. But so far they have not tinkered with his grip, which famously does not employ the laces. Not using the laces seems to have no bearing on whether he throws a tight spiral or not. Davis throws a very pretty ball.

Here are the first- and second-team depth charts from today's practice. And remember, a lot of these positions - like quarterback and running back - likely will change from practice to practice...

QB: Alex Smith, Shaun Hill
RB: Frank Gore, Thomas Clayton
FB: Moran Norris, Zak Keasey
TE: Vernon Davis, Bear Pascoe
LT: Joe Staley, Barry Sims
LG: David Baas, Tony Wragge
C: Eric Heitmann, Cody Wallace
RG: Chilo Rachal, Kyle Howard
RT: Adam Snyder, Jacob Bender
WR: Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones
WR: Jason Hill, Maurice Price

LDE: Isaac Sopoaga, Kentwan Balmer
NT: Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga
RED: Justin Smith, Demetric Evans
MILB: Patrick Willis, Jeff Ulbrich
TILB: Takeo Spikes, Scott McKillop
SOLB: Manny Lawson, Marques Harris
WOLB: Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks
SS: Mark Roman, Reggie Smith
FS: Dashon Goldson, Curtis Taylor
CB: Dre' Bly, Allen Rossum
CB: Tarell Brown, Marcus Hudson

What's the difference between an OTA and a minicamp? Practically speaking, a minicamp can have two practices. The second practice of the day begins at 3:50 p.m. I'll have another - shorter, hopefully - blog after it ends.

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt 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 Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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