Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Alex Smith will be Jim Harbaugh's quarterback in 2011
The biggest challenge for Jim Harbaugh will be to turn Alex Smith into a decent NFL quarterback. Harbaugh is well known for developing quarterbacks and his work with Alex Smith will be crucial to the 49ers' success.
In the six years that Alex Smith has been with the 49ers he has struggled. The reasons for this, including his own poor play, have been widely discussed. However, Jim Harbaugh believes Smith can be a good quarterback and I am willing to give them both a chance to prove it.
Harbaugh is credited for turning a relatively unheralded Josh Johnson into an NFL-caliber player at the University of San Diego. Johnson is now a quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At Stanford, Harbaugh was instrumental in the development of Andrew Luck. Possessing good fundamental skills and a strong understanding of the game, Harbaugh honed the skills and instincts of Luck to the point where Luck is now the top quarterback in college football.
Had he entered the 2011 draft, Luck would have been the first player selected. He is already better than half of the quarterbacks starting in the NFL and Jim Harbaugh has prepared him well to make the jump to pro football.
Harbaugh will need to work his magic with Alex Smith, but he believes in him and can teach him far more than any of Smith's former head coaches or offensive coordinators, except for maybe Norv Turner. I believe Smith will show marked improvement in the upcoming season.
Colin Kaepernick, selected in Round 2 of the 2011 draft, will also get the benefit of Harbaugh's coaching. Kaepernick played in the Pistol offense, which was designed by Nevada head coach Chris Ault. He will have a lot to learn about a pro-style offense and Harbaugh is the right man to teach him.
Kaepernick is the quarterback of the future, but it will take a year or two before he's ready to play. He will not only need to learn the 49er offense, but he will also need to learn NFL defenses and how to progress through multiple reads quickly.
Kaepernick is an excellent athlete and I believe he will make the transition to become a quality starter in the NFL. We will just need to be patient, because he has a lot to learn.