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A quick look at the ever intriguing 49ers OT Alex Boone

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The 49ers wrapped up their second day of minicamp practices today and provided press conferences for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Manusky and Raye both had some interesting comments, but I wanted to focus on one of Jimmy Raye's comments in particular. You can read over recaps of practice from Matt Barrows and Phil Barber.

Alex Boone is a guy many of us have been thinking about since he was first signed as an undrafted free agent. He has always been considered a talented but troubled guy. Whether he is completely past his college drinking problems remains to be seen, but on the field, it's been a slow development process. He came in to camp last season relatively out of shape and not really ready to be an NFL player.

A year later, we've heard about how he's lost a bunch of weight and really worked on his conditioning. Even Jimmy Raye had some comments on whether he was seeing a difference now as compared to a year ago:

"Tremendous. Probably, even to the laymen's eye, it's very obvious that he's changed his body. His conditioning is better and if you take him, like you are talking about these other guys, a year ago that came in with no conditioning, non-football legs and look at him a year ago and look at him today, having been a part of the program for a year, then the weight program, the running and the conditioning. If you take the people that we are starting with that have the same opportunity and they flourish to that point, then you have something."

Raye was asked how that reflected in on-field performance:

"The ability to handle his body without being all over the place and falling down and not in a position to hurt himself or hurt somebody else is the first start of it, but again, he's in shorts and t-shirts. So, the next step for him will be the OTAs and the training camp, and then we'll see if it manifests itself on the football plane."

So basically, it sounds like he's showing improvement, but we really won't know until padded practices in training camp, and probably preseason playing time. One could say Boone has as much to prove in the 2010 preseason as almost anybody on this team. After all, in adding a pair of rookie offensive linemen in the first round, starting options are running on short supply. After all, Staley, Rachal and Heitmann have three spots locked up, and the team obviously wants Iupati and Davis to wrap up the remaining two.

Of course, maybe the best case scenario at this point is for Boone to eventually surpass Barry Sims in the swingman role. Sims re-signed with the team in the offseason for one more year. I suppose the 49ers could keep going year-to-year with him, but giving that he's 35, I can't imagine he's long for the 49ers world. Given that, do people think Alex Boone eventually surpasses Sims? Of course, if he shows enough improvement in the coming couple seasons, and the 49ers are set at the tackle positions, maybe Boone decides to take a walk for a chance to start somewhere else.

We'll obviously talk about this plenty more times in the coming months, but for now, what do people see as the best case scenario for Alex Boone in 2010?

Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky
Press Conference - May 1, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

On his first impressions of the new players:

"Pretty good. I think any time you get some of these draft choices in here, it's a little different than the college scene, but for the most part, they're doing a pretty good job."

On whether he liked the pace of practice:

"Yeah, I always talk about the tempo. Usually the offense sets the tempo, but the last couple of days have been pretty good."

On what he would like to accomplish in the rookie minicamp:

"I think with the younger guys that come in here, they're a little bit out of shape and they've got to go through the training camp procedures. There's a lot of meeting time. A lot of practice time. The stuff they should be working on, certain techniques, certain fundamentals and eventually they try to figure it out and try to be the best that they can. That's what we're trying to see what they can do physically and what they can't do."

On what he thinks about S Taylor Mays' ball skills:

"Good, so far. He's had a little bit of action. Right now is just preliminary more than anything else. You just want to see where they are and where they need to get to, to be a factor during the season."

On what he saw in Mays before the draft:

"The one thing I can't coach is 4.38 or whatever he runs. I can't coach that. That's what mom and dad gave him. From that standpoint, it's good that he can run that. Now, we've just got to work on his footwork, work on his eyes and all of those little things that [head] coach Sing [Mike Singletary] talks about all the time."

On whether Mays is under the microscope on how he breaks to the ball:

"I can't tell you exactly. I just say what I saw down there at USC with what they were playing. I'll tell you the truth, I don't know. I don't know what he was coached to do. All I know is what I saw on tape. He ran a pretty good time. He's a good football player. I'm happy to have him."

On whether the system at USC is different than here:

"I think a little bit. I think every system is a little bit different. From the standpoint of him playing in different positions and coming down and blitzing off the edge, yeah, a little different then what Pete [Carroll] had him down there at USC. We'll throw him in the mix and see where he ends up."

On what he expects to get out of the defensive rookies this season:

"I think the most important thing is that when you start to build something, the backup players become better. I think there's not a letdown all of the sudden when someone gets banged up or nicked. The next guy comes in and plays defense. There are no missed heartbeats, you just keep on playing. I think we're just trying to add a lot of depth and add starters of course. I think as time goes and you keep on progressing, you start to narrow down exactly what you're looking for and trying to get those guys to play in the system and play well."

On how much time he gets to spend with the players to see what motivates them:

"Well, Coach Sing's been doing a lot of that, talking to the high school coaches, talking to the college coaches and talking to their mom's and dad's. Just trying to see how they learn best, how they react and try to get the best situation for them when we're in the meeting rooms and on the field as well."

On how long he would expect LB Navorro Bowman to grasp the scheme:

"Usually overall, I think the third year of their tenure. I think usually that's when they really figure out the system and figure out what football's all about in regards to the NFL. Usually across the board, three years it takes a lot of players. Some guys do come in and they're athletically gifted and they can play. Some of their mistakes are not scene because they're so athletically gifted."

On if Bowman can be a MIKE linebacker:

"We'll see. We don't have any pads on right now so we'll look around and see where he fits the best. I don't know what he was taught in college, but for the most part, we're going to see where he fits in the schemes. He's a physical guy. He's got good speed. He has pretty good eyes. We've got to wait and see."

On his assessment of CB Phillip Adams:

"Good. He's a small school guy that came in and has some pretty good feet, pretty good vision. It's the same thing; it's just so early to tell about these kids because for right now, from an illustration point, we only have about that much defense in. The more we pick up, it's going to be a little bit harder. I think they will do very well."

On whether he corrects the issues learned in college now or later:

"I think the first couple of days that they're out here, I think when the OTAs eventually start and the starters are here, you try to work on their stance, you try to work on their footwork, but you're not really going to accomplish much in two or three practices. What you're going to try to do is set a foundation for them and eventually the next two weeks that they're not around, try to work on those things when they're there and all of the sudden when they come into OTAs, really start hammering them with those situations, their footwork, or eyes or whatever it might be."

Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye
Press Conference - May 1, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

On who's making the biggest impression so far among the offensive linemen drafted:

"Just being here, physically looking at them is a good impression, to have them to work with. For this time of year for offensive linemen, it's really difficult because offensive line play is in the pads. There's really no evaluation process that can take place other than physical ability and agility, mental aptitude, how they learn. They've done a good job of absorbing the system to this point with the stuff that they've had. We have to make sure we don't evaluate them in shorts and t-shirts."

On the differences between RB Glen Coffee and RB Anthony Dixon:

"The biggest difference is obviously size. Run talent and size, explosive quickness with size, short area quickness with size and explosion and the physicality that he plays. Again I temper that by saying the biggest transition for a college back coming into pro football is learning to play without the ball in pass protection and you can't evaluate those things or see those things until you actually put the pads on. But, doing what we are doing in the installation, running out there in shorts and t-shirts, it's been positive."

On whether QB Jarrett Brown is having a hard time gripping the ball:

"No, Jarrett Brown has a basketball size hand, so his problem wasn't gripping the ball. I think probably, the combination of trying to call the plays, trying to make the reads and trying to throw the ball, and coordinating all that with the footwork. Some of that may have gotten out of sequence. That caused some of that, but it has nothing to do with his ability to grip the football."

On whether the young players can make the offense more physical right away:

"Somewhere between now and August, I'll be able to answer that for you. I think the only way you can judge a football player is to watch him play football and the things that we are doing now don't equate to playing football. You also have to remember, these guys haven't played a game of football since November or December. Then their focus was on training for the combine, which has nothing to do with playing football, and then come into a minicamp where they get football terminology and football action and skill and they are training since their last college football game in December. That's as far removed from anything else that they've done. We can't jump to judgment until they actually get into the environment of football, start conditioning for football and learning the system of football that we have. Then, being able to do that at a competitive level when somebody is hitting them upside the head, so we have to take our time with these youngsters and get them to the point where they can play football and show us. What we are trying to do now is not to tie them up mentally and let them show their athleticism, then put them in the environment conditioning-wise to be able to compete at their position and play."

On whether the components are there for the running game to be more smash mouth:

"Oh yes. I would definitely say compared to a year ago and probably on any given year if you were to get 600 pounds of offensive linemen in the first round of the draft and add another 240 pounds of runner to that, it would be a reason for optimism."

On what he needs to get from the high draft picks on offense:

"I need to get competition. I think if we get competition at positions - we are on the brink of being a pretty good football team inside-out, theoretically. If we can get competition for position, and the best guys are in there playing, then we are better as a football team."

On why T Anthony Davis wasn't in on the last session of 11-on-11:

"Because we had given him all of the snaps in the previous group and the previous team that we had, and then we had a special deal for them when we were having 7-on-7. We didn't want to overwork him or flip him over to another side, so to be able to get to what we wanted to get through this afternoon and have enough bodies, there wasn't any reason here to take a chance and overwork any of them. We just made an executive decision and put the other guy in there."

On the shape that Davis is in:

"I think he's like all the other guys out there. I think he has a ways to go conditioning-wise. As I mentioned previously before, they haven't played a lot of football since last December, training for the combine and then they've been flying on planes to Radio City Music Hall and meeting. I think there are a lot of things that go into that. I'm not a physical therapist. All I know is what I see that most of them have to get into football shape."

On TE Nate Byham's role in the offense:

"He will get in line with the tight ends. He'll compete for a position on the team. I don't think, at this time, to have a defined role for him or any of these other guys. A more distinct answer would be that he would play more Y in our system than F, but that would mean that he would be excluded from the F position. He seems to be more suited to be the Y, which is the tight end person rather than the motion, move guy at the F. So his snaps would probably be more at tight end than Y if you will, than he would be at the other position."

On whether RB Anthony Dixon's body lean is because he hasn't been playing for awhile:

"Yes, I think that would be non-football legs. You have to remember all these guys are young, full of anxiety, got coaches hollering at them, telling them all new verbiage and different things, trying to do the best they can, without a lot of conditioning. So, I think it's a combination as I look at them, without the exchange of people that you normally have. We've got one guy to take every play of all of the session that we have, without being in football shape, even in football shape that would be difficult, so without being in any condition here in May to be able to handle that, I think you'll see some of that, as it gets down into the practice."

On whether the two first round draft picks were what he'd thought they'd be athletically:

"Yes, they have been. You have to take that and weigh it against what they are blocking and what they are lining up against. This is a rookie free agent tryout camp. These aren't NFL players for the most part. What I've seen from them from the tape, when we drafted them and anticipated everything, they've shown the athleticism, the quickness, the explosion, the power, the heavy hands, the ability to drop their weight, sink and anchor. In the drills, they've shown all of that. Now, when [DT] Justin Smith and [DT] Kentwan Balmer, those guys get here, if that continues to be the case, then we'll move forward."

On whether he sees a difference from T Alex Boone and what he was seeing from him a year ago:

"Tremendous. Probably, even to the laymen's eye, it's very obvious that he's changed his body. His conditioning is better and if you take him, like you are talking about these other guys, a year ago that came in with no conditioning, non-football legs and look at him a year ago and look at him today, having been a part of the program for a year, then the weight program, the running and the conditioning. If you take the people that we are starting with that have the same opportunity and they flourish to that point, then you have something."

On how that improved conditioning is translating to how he is playing from last year:

"The ability to handle his body without being all over the place and falling down and not in a position to hurt himself or hurt somebody else is the first start of it, but again, he's in shorts and t-shirts. So, the next step for him will be the OTAs and the training camp, and then we'll see if it manifests itself on the football plane."

On whether he sees change in QB Alex Smith from a year ago:

"There's a tremendous change in him from the way he carries himself and walks in and out of the building with an air of confidence, a totally different guy. If you want to digress to when he came here a year ago and he was six or seven weeks into the year, it's a totally different guy. In terms of his confidence, familiarity with what he's doing, his sense of entitlement, I think all of those things are manifesting themselves right now because of the success that he had, even though some people may deem it as minimal or maybe even being a little suspect about it. For him, from what I've seen, there's been a tremendous change."