49ers sign rookie free agent OT Matt Kopa; Day 2 Jimmy Raye Transcript

Initially I was planning a 6pm open thread for the election returns down in Santa Clara, but it sounds like they'll be happening later, so I'll have a post up by around 7pm.

In the meantime, the 49ers announced the signing of rookie free agent tackle Matt Kopa. Kopa was trying to get a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, but finally gave up and signed a free agent contract. According to NFLDraftScout (via Maiocco), Kopa was rated a fifth or sixth round pick. It's interesting to note that Kopa, 6-6, 303 out of Stanford, began his collegiate career as a defensive lineman before making the switch to the offensive line as a junior. He played in 35 career games (seven starts), including starting the final six games of the 2008 season (five at right tackle and one at left guard). Kopa started at right tackle in the 2009 season opener, but missed the rest of the season with an injured foot.

After the jump, I've posted the transcript for Jimmy Raye's post-practice media session today. He spoke on issues across the board, but hit on a few particularly interesting subjects. He was asked about Coach Singletary's comments regarding Nate Davis. In response he said that he thought Davis was making progress, but one drawback this year was that David Carr, as the primary backup, had to get additional reps to get used to the offense in case Smith were injured. Given that, Davis has lost out on some snaps. Of course, that means Jarrett Brown is losing out on even more, so that battle is arguably at a bit of a standstill for now.

The other interesting discussion was about Michael Crabtree. Given Crabtree's holdout, he never really was able to learn the basic fundamentals of playing wide receiver in the NFL, and particularly playing that position in the Jimmy Raye offense. On the one hand, that goes to show how naturally gifted he is, but it also means he'll be learning a lot of basics this offseason, which I think is also a good thing.

On what it says about Crabtree's performance without the fundamental base:

"I think it speaks volumes to the fact that, on top of being a wide receiver, he's a very good football player. He has natural, innate instincts, understanding of the game and how to play the game. He's gifted with a great, natural ability of eye-hand coordination to catch the ball.  It made it easier to play last year with the limited background he had of what we were doing."

Your natural ability will take you so far, but having a grasp on fundamentals is a key second ingredient. We'll see what that means for Crabtree in his second year in the NFL.

Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye
June 8, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

On whether he is pleased with the way the offense is looking:

"We've made some steady progress. I think we're a little bit further along at this time than I would have thought we would have been in terms of our personnel groupings. We finally got the majority of the guys back for the OTAs with the addition of [RB] Michael Robinson. So, yes we're pleased at this point with what we've seen."

On whether this is the best he's seen QB Alex Smith throw the football:

"This early, yes. This early, it is. There was a stretch of time during the fall, the second half of the year, where he was really on the spot throwing the ball. Up to this point in April and May, it's a lot better than it was a year ago at this time. There's a lot more confidence and his velocity is better, his footwork is improved. From that respect, it is."

On whether WR Michael Crabtree will be pulled back a little bit to the basics in his first offseason:

"We don't necessarily pull him back, but he gets a chance to start with the fundamental base that he missed a year ago. As the instillations repeat themselves and the installment process goes forward, it's a little easier for him now to incorporate the fundamental techniques of his position and the nuances of what he missed a year ago. Now that he went through it and now it's, ‘Oh, that's what that was.'"

On what it says about Crabtree's performance without the fundamental base:

"I think it speaks volumes to the fact that, on top of being a wide receiver, he's a very good football player. He has natural, innate instincts, understanding of the game and how to play the game. He's gifted with a great, natural ability of eye-hand coordination to catch the ball.  It made it easier to play last year with the limited background he had of what we were doing."

On how much it affected Smith to change coordinators every year:

"I don't have anything to compare it to because I wasn't on the staff for any of those previous changes. I do know this, the amount of volume that's involved and just the simple dialect of being able to call a play with some degree of certainty offensive pass, run, run and pass, then be able to handle the protection and handle yourself, if you have to change that every year consecutively as you start, then it would be mindboggling to think where he would be if he was in a change again. I think it would be unparallel."

On whether this will be the first time Smith and the offense can be fairly judged this season:

"I don't know if that's the case. It's like I said to him and all of them, I don't think any of the guys that we have ever have played football at a level where they didn't learn plays. You eventually learn the plays to play, then it's your natural innate ability to play that you incorporate into that. I think, maybe, the fact he is doing something he's familiar with eliminates some of the anxiety and some of the apprehension that he has, so he plays faster. That's what you try to get. You try to get them to the point where they can play fast and the rudiments of what they do become part of it. When you change constantly, you're having to think about the calls, the alignment, the play and all of the things that go into that. So, you can't play as fast."

On what specifics he sees in the improvement of the offense:

"Just the simple fact that they understand the verbiage, the alignment and nomenclature. Then the competitive part of it, you're not thinking about the nuance, the fundamental part as much because it's become kind of engrained in what you do. So, now you're able to express your freedom and flow a little bit better. That's where I think we're a little bit ahead of the gate at this point."

On what stands out to him most about T Anthony Davis and G Mike Iupati:

"They're huge. They are athletic big men that can run and both have great flexibility and an ability to anchor, drop their weight and sustain and anchor. About the second week in August, you'll have a better idea because linemen can only get better playing the line by blocking. So, playing with their hands in the shorts, and the helmets and t-shirts, you can see the athleticism that both of them have. You can see the size that they have of 300-plus and the ability to run and pull. You can see those things and the natural athleticism they have and they don't back down. Hopefully, when their feet hit the fire, they'll continue to go forward."

On whether the expectations are high on Davis and Iupati:

"I would certainly hope so. Our expectations are such, I think they were the 11th and 17th pick in the draft, so automatically you have visions of high expectations for people you pick that high out of 380-some players in the country. They've demonstrated that  was warranted in shorts and t-shirts. So, if it manifests itself in a physical environment, then you'd be ecstatic."

On subbing Davis and Iupati in and out at the same time and whether he's trying to cultivate them as a duo:

"Well, they play different sides of the ball. One's a tackle and one's a guard. So, the incorporation into the so-called, first-unit, when it goes in there, however you are determining that, when they go in there, is to get them familiar standing there amongst the veteran players. It's a little easier to always go in with the group that you are comfortable with and then the expectation level picks up when you have to go in there with the No. 1 quarterback. You try to alleviate that anxiety as much as possible, mixing in slowly. You don't ask or expect too much and let them get grounded in that environment of being in there and if they take off, the competitive part of it will dictate itself in the fall."

On whether part of putting Davis with the first-team is familiarizing him with G Chilo Rachal playing next to him:

"There will come a point where that will be important because of the continuity of five guys working together. Ultimately, you have to do that to get the best five and the communication between the guard and tackle and if the tight end is on his side, if [TE] Vernon [Davis] is over there, he's stuck between Chilo and Vernon. So, that communication part of it is part of it. But at this point, it's not one of the things that we are trying to achieve. We are trying to get them familiar with the words, the blocking schemes, the protection schemes and going in and playing against the guys that would be our first defensive guys that are already veteran NFL players."

On what Coach Singletary meant that QB Nate Davis is not coming along as quickly as the coaches would like:

"I think that question, since it was Coach Singletary's, I think he should be the one that should expound on that. From my perspective of where Nate Davis is, from what I've seen, I think he's made progress. I think he's continued to make progress. The difficult part of where Nate is now is the addition of [QB] David Carr because we have to give David Carr an opportunity to be familiar and be ready play, so that takes away from Nate Davis. If the scenario was the same as it was a year ago, with [QB] Shaun Hill and [QB] Alex Smith, we could eliminate some of the snaps with one of those those guys and he could get more reps. Right now, he can't the volume of reps because of the addition of David Carr, who has to get enough reps to learn the system and be able to play, so you are starting all over with him and then you are trying to develop Nate. His progress has been impeded by the fact we have an additional quarterback, but I think his progress to this point has been okay. When we finish this segment of this pre-practice stuff, I would hope that he will be in competition with David Carr for the backup spot in August. I would hope that would be the case."

On his experience with rookie offensive linemen bringing them along quickly:

"Well, I have had this scenario before and ideally, the most difficult part for an offensive linemen is the pass protection. But, we started [T] D'Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle and [C] Nick Mangold at guard as rookies in New York and went to the playoffs. It can be done and left tackle is a much more difficult position to play in the NFL than the right tackle spot. It just depends on the individual, how fast he matures and how stable the people are around him. Those two, to expedite their learning curve - it can be done and we certainly expect, in this environment, that these guys will be competitive enough to be fighting for a job."

On whether it is a priority to get the offensive line working together on the first day of training camp:

"No, I think it's a process where there will come a point that it will be important that they will be working together and I think that will be somewhere between the first and second exhibition game. If that group has solidified itself, hopefully at that point, you can make a value judgment and say, ‘Okay, these are the guys that are going to have to work cohesively as a unit going forward,' but I would say the timeframe will be somewhere in the middle of the summer, with the practice games."

On what Iupati needs to do to be an effective starter:

"The biggest thing for a young guy is when he is covering with his pass protection and understanding the angles and the sets in pass protection, where his help is, where the declaration is set and where his help comes from, where the angles are set. I think physically, with the run part of it, if you stand in front of him, he's going to run off and hit you. That part of it is pretty clear. He has to get familiar working in unison with the center and the tackle on his side and the three-man game, the snap and the switch, being able to snap back, stop the penetrator, being able to pick up the games in the line stunts and the pass protection. That's the hardest part for the interior guys. You can only demonstrate and do that in pads. You can't take that to a physical level in shorts and T-shirts. You can walk through it and do it, but with the speed of it in a real environment in pads, you can only assimilate that by doing it so that's why the time process is important for us."

On how closely he will be paying attention to the results of the stadium:

"I'll be paying very close attention to it. I voted."

On whether he voted for the stadium:

"Yes."

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