SANTA CLARA – Here are select quotes from Day 1 of 49ers minicamp.
Blaine Gabbert on Bruce Ellington: “Going into his third year, he’s now a vet. He’s a vet in that room. He knows how to prepare himself day in and day out, and it’s really carrying over to the field. He’s balling out right now. The biggest thing I see from him — he’s having fun, he’s enjoying it and he’s catching a ton of balls right now.
Gabbert on Vance McDonald: “He’s such a great athlete. He’s smart. He does a great job in the run and pass game. He’s a guy that we have to utilize. He’s a mismatch nightmare on linebackers. And you really kind of saw that jump Week 8 on last year. He did a great job, stayed healthy and had some good plays.”
Tight ends coach Jeff Nixon on Vance McDonald: “The sky is the limit for Vance. He’s very talented. He has the size and the speed. I think most of his drops sometimes are a little bit of a lack of concentration, because he does have good hands. But I’m expecting a big year out of Vance. He finished up the year strong. I think the last three or four games he had at least five catches in each of those games. We’re looking for him to take off right from where he left off last year, being a big-play tight-end target for us in the pass game.”
How to improve concentration? Nixon: “Catch the ball with your eyes. Most drops happen when you take your eye off the ball. You end up having bad hand placement or you’re trying to run before you catch it. So I think it’s more him keeping his eye on the ball, looking it all the way in. Catch if first before you try to run and get up the field, because he’s an explosive runner when he does have the ball in hands. I think sometimes he tries to run and make plays before he catches the ball.”
Nixon on Garrett Celek: “He really has become a complete football player. He’s solid for us…He really does a nice job of making traffic catches, as we expect our tight ends to do. Between him and Vance, they kind of give us some veteran leadership. I expect him to have a really good productive year for us.”
Nixon on Blake Bell: “Blake is about 270, but he really doesn’t look like it. He’s playing a lot more physical, playing with his hands. He’s doing a really good job in the run game and the pass game for us. I think the transition that he made a couple years ago from quarterback to tight end has gone well for him. He’s a full-fledged tight end and is playing better with more experience.”
Quarterbacks coach Ryan Day on Gabbert: “He’s a professional, first off. When he comes into the meeting room, you better buckle up because he knows what he’s talking about, he’s really sharp, he has experience, he has been on the field, he knows what is real and what isn’t, he knows what’s clinic talk and what isn’t, so when you get up on the board and you explain something to him, you need to have a plan and be well thought out and prepared every day. Which is great as a coach. You love that.
“On the field, I know Coach (Chip Kelly) talked about his athleticism. I felt the same way. I didn’t know he was as athletic as he was. Throwing the ball, too. He can make all the throws that you need. He has a really good skillset and we’re excited about that.”
Day on Jeff Driskel: “He’s dynamic with his feet, for sure. He can make a lot of the throws, too. There are a few things that we’re working on technically in terms of throwing the football. But he’s got a great skillset we look forward to develop.”