SANTA CLARA – Here’s what stood out to me during the afternoon practice of the first day of the 49ers’ 2013 rookie mini-camp.
1. Vance McDonald, TE. The rookie tight end had the best practice of the day. He dropped the first pass thrown to him – it was a strike from B.J. Daniels – but after that miscue McDonald caught everything. During one-on-one drills, he went against Michael Thomas and beat him to the outside on an intermediate route. Daniels underthrew the pass – it was going right to Thomas. McDonald stopped, reached back over Thomas’ head and snatched the ball away from Thomas’ hands. Later, McDonald went against Eric Reid one-on-one. McDonald ran up the seam, faked a cut to the outside and cut back inside, completely fooling Reid. Daniels easily hit McDonald for the completion.
2. Quinton Patton, possession WR/PR. He started at split end, then moved to flanker and eventually played from the slot. He was effective on underneath and intermediate routes, creating separation with explosive cuts and attacking the ball in the air with his hands. Patton also looked natural catching punts and evading defenders on the punt return.
3. Lawrence Okoye, DL. Jim Tomsula was leading “redirection” shuffling exercises with the rookie defensive linemen – Dan Farr from Toledo, Michael Purcell from Wyoming and Lawrence Okoye. Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial did not participate, but they observed. Tomsula had Farr, Purcell and Okoye shuffle back and forth while they crouched close to the ground. The goal is to stay low and keep your feet underneath you while moving them as quickly as possible. Okoye clearly was the best at his drill. His feet are surprisingly quick for man who weighs more than 300 pounds. Okoye seemed to get tired during the middle of practice, but at the end of practice something interesting happened. All the players had to do six reps of jumping onto a box and then jumping again onto a huge mat – the kind high jumpers use. On Okoye’s first rep, he exploded onto the box, but then he hesitated and his second jump was no good. “You’re an Olympian!” Tomsula said to him. “You can do better! Justin Smith gets six feet in the air on his second jump.” Next time, Okoye jumped seven feet in the air before he hit the mat. “That’s what we’re paying for!” Tomsula said.
4. Marcus Lattimore, RB. After practice, Lattimore jogged off the field. It was encouraging to see him jog.
1. B.J. Daniels, QB/PR. He threw three passes in 11-on-11 drills and all three were incomplete. One was an interception to Lowell Rose. As Daniels moved on to one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens, it was apparent he was struggling with his accuracy. He tended to miss short throws low and behind receivers, and he tended to overthrow intermediate and long passes. But his passes had a lot of zip, and some were on the money. It’s possible he’s an accurate passer who just had an inconsistent day. As a punt returner, he dropped his first two punts, but he seemed to get more comfortable and confident as practice went on.
2. Quinton Patton, deep threat WR. He had a good practice, but he couldn’t beat defensive backs deep. Three times he tried to run deep routes, and all three times the cornerback ran step-for-step with him down the field and the pass fell incomplete. Once, Darryl Morris actually had Patton beat by a couple of steps, but luckily for Patton, Daniels overthrew him by 10 yards. Perhaps Patton will become an NFL deep threat as he improves his conditioning and gains experience.
3. Luke Marquardt, OT. He had a boot on his right foot and he was on crutches. He broke his foot before the season opener his senior year at Azusa Pacific and he had follow-up surgery about a month ago. He watched practice while sitting on a golf cart.