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Arnaz Battle: Harder to kill than Jason, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers combined

One of my favorite 49ers is Arnaz Battle.  I realize he's not a superstar receiver, but something about him is appealing to the fan in me.  Actually it's multiple somethings.  He came out of Notre Dame basically learning a new position (I believe he played some WR at Notre Dame).  Not only did he learn the position, but he actually became a pretty decent receiver.  This plays into the next reason I'm a fan: the fact that he stuck it out on some god-awful 49ers teams.  Given how bad the talent was it makes sense that even a decent receiver would stand out.  The final reason?  Well I like his official website.

I bring him up now because yet again, he is making some noise in camp and battling for some considerable playing time.  A few weeks ago I had him battling Dominique Zeigler for a sixth wide receiver role that might not even exist.  Now?  Well, Maiocco had a good line about Battle yesterday:

Michael Crabtree is nowhere to be found (there's still no progress on his contract). Brandon Jones is out through September with a broken shoulder. And third-year player Jason Hill has yet to assert himself.

Don't look now, but here comes Arnaz Battle.

When MM did his offensive review before the first exhibition game, of Battle he said: "He has to step up with Jones out and prove his legs can handle the rigors of training camp. Battle clearly elevated his game late in the week. He'll have to keep it up to solidify his role on the team."  When Bruce sat out last week's game against Denver, Battle got the start in his place.  On the 49ers unofficial depth chart (in the game release for this week), Bruce is listed as the #1 flanker, followed by Brandon Jones (in brackets for his injury) and Dominique ZeiglerJosh Morgan is listed as the starter at split end, with Jason Hill second and Battle third.  At this point, it seems like Battle has been elevated to the primary backup behind Bruce.  It's a bit of speculation on my part, but something to keep an eye on.

In his post-practice press conference, Jimmy Raye was asked about Battle (full transcript after the jump):

"Steady, smart guy that can do a lot of things. He can handle the ball as a runner. He’s a good intermediate route, possession receiver and he’s sneaky fast. I hadn’t seen much of him prior to training camp because he was rehabilitating an injury from the offseason, so we didn’t see him in the OTAs or the offseason program, but we’ve been very pleased with what he’s done as long as [Jeff Ferguson] and the rehab people tell us he’s doing okay, he’s done well."

That description seems to sum up Arnaz Battle in a nutshell: Steady. 

I know there are folks out there who don't think particularly highly of Arnaz Battle.  However, with Brandon Jones injured and Michael Crabtree nowhere near camp, we're going to get a decent dose of Arnaz Battle.  Any thoughts on what kind of production we see from him this season if he stays healthy?  Will he stay ahead of Dominique Zeigler on the depth chart?  Will he end up battling Jason Hill for slot receiver playing time?

Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye
Post-Practice – 08-19-09
San Francisco 49ers

On whether he knows if Frank Gore will play this Saturday:
"No, I don’t. We’re going to make a decision about play time in our normal routine on our Thursday meeting. The way that he’s been going has been very good, but we’ll make that decision when we do the personnel depth chart."

On taking precautions in the playing of Frank Gore:
"I don’t know if that will be a factor when we do it. Basically, we’ve got to look at the number of competitive snaps we can get in a live situation between now and the last exhibition game and how much time we are going to give the offensive line. So it would depend a little bit on the combination of things. How much time do we give the offensive line, how much time we think he needs and then we go from there and make that decision."

On the effects of the Raiders defensive coverage on the 49ers wide receivers:
"Well that’s all perception. A part of that is the rush, a part of that is the different style of defense that they play that we don’t have free access. It’s good to see man-to-man bump and run, work on our releases and see if we can get up the field against that style of play, but it’s a combination of rush and pressure as well as the bump and run coverage that they’re playing."

On the quarterbacks getting an equal amount of playing time this Saturday:
"Yes, that’s what we’d like to do.  We made the decision last week because of the play sequence not to put the guy that started the game back in because it would spill over and run us in to a situation in the second half that we didn’t want to be in with the time and the offensive line. Whoever we talk about in the Thursday meeting to start the game, the next guy that’s in competition with him we hope that he gets the snaps. That’s controlled a little bit by how they control the ball and the quarters running out and the time, so we’ll either go snap and series based on how the game is unfolding, but we’d like to get each one of them about 15 snaps a piece."

On what he has noticed about running back Glen Coffee during training camp:
"He has really been exceptional for a rookie running back in terms of all of things that we’ve asked him to learn and the things that he does. I think that he’s way ahead of the curve in terms of his pass protection. Its unusual for a college back because they are not asked to protect much from the I-back position. If he continues to develop the way that he has – he’s a rugged player, he is mentally tough, he plays physical and rugged, and I think that he has a bright future."

On Coffee’s intangibles:
"I think what he has is vision and he has the ability to get fast in the hole. I don’t know that in a footrace that he would run that fast, but he has instincts and [a] second-level spurt that is a little bit unusual, uncanny."

On why he excels in pass protection:
"I think part of that too is peer pressure. I think that coach Rathman does a great job with that. And, he sees that he tries to imitate Frank Gore, who is an excellent pass-protector, is a plus for him. So that is a standard that is set that he’s working up to that helps him in terms of what he does that way."

On whether pass protection is what makes coaches most nervous when it comes to rookie running backs in a game situation:
"Very much so. Most of the time that guy has to protect the quarterback’s back side and [if] you lose pass protection with a rookie running back, you probably lose your quarterback so you are in a situation where you don’t want to jeopardize the quarterback’s health because of a rookie running back that is getting up to speed in terms of the pass protection."

On Glen Coffee’s pass catching ability in this offense:
"I think he’ll catch the normal progression of passes that a back would catch based on the flood control, but I don’t see him or envision him being a guy we would want to feature and throw the ball to. We want him to run the football. That’s his strong suit. He’s a physical, inside slasher. He’s shown in the first exhibition game and if he continues to do that going forward, I think that would be the thing that we would lean on."

On how QB Alex Smith is doing getting rid of the ball:
"Yes, he’s getting better at it. That three second clock was a little bit of a nuisance to them earlier, but I think they have adjusted to that and they understand that their body time clock has to speed up as well as their feet and we’ve emphasized and stressed the ball coming out and he as well as all the other guys have done pretty well with that."

On what he’s seen from WR Arnaz Battle so far:
"Steady, smart guy that can do a lot of things. He can handle the ball as a runner. He’s a good intermediate route, possession receiver and he’s sneaky fast. I hadn’t seen much of him prior to training camp because he was rehabilitating an injury from the offseason, so we didn’t see him in the OTAs or the offseason program, but we’ve been very pleased with what he’s done as long as [Jeff Ferguson] and the rehab people tell us he’s doing okay, he’s done well."

On whether he agrees that this is one of the best camps Frank Gore has had:
"Well, I really don’t have anything to compare it to in terms of prior deals, but from what I’ve seen and the guys that I’ve had, he has had an outstanding training camp. His weight is down, his body is rocked up, he’s ready to go. He’s been exceptional in training camp if I were to compare him with other guys that I’ve had that were in an elite category in terms of runners, he’s been exceptional."

On whether Isaac Bruce will play on Saturday:
"I think I said earlier that we were going to talk about the personnel on Thursday and make a decision on who was going to get snaps and who wasn’t going to get snaps and that will include Isaac Bruce."

On how the first team offensive line is jelling:
"I think this morning they made a big step. I think under the conditions of them being up here for four practices against the Raiders, this is a different front for us because the guards are covered. In our training camp they’ve been uncovered because of the 3-4 scheme. I thought we created some movement. I thought it was excellent work for us and I think their progress has been really good."