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Alex Smith is expected to sign with the 49ers.
At the end of the 2010 season I would have wagered big money that Alex Smith would never play for the 49ers again. The fans wanted him out, and he was done in his own mind in San Francisco.
It's funny how things change. Due to the protracted lockout, it now is a foregone conclusion that Smith will sign a free agent deal with the 49ers. He organized two mini camps for the players in order to help them become familiar with Jim Harbaugh's playbook.
Harbaugh has also said that he likes what he sees in Smith and believes he can be a good quarterback in the NFL. That is very encouraging because Harbaugh was a very successful quarterback as a player and as a coach he has developed a fine reputation for developing top notch QB's.
Under the guidance of Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, lightly regarded Josh Johnson developed into an NFL prospect and has played three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A free agent, Johnson has expressed an interest in joining the Harbaugh and the 49ers.
At Stanford, Harbaugh was also very instrumental in helping to develop Andrew Luck into the top quarterback in college football. Luck is already better than two-thirds of the quarterbacks that will be starting in the NFL this year.
The 49ers hope Harbaugh can continue to add to his legacy as a quarterback guru. I do believe he will help Alex Smith and we will see better play from Smith this year. The offensive system will be more conducive to Smith, and Harbaugh will provide expert guidance for all of his quarterbacks.
The 49ers also traded up to select Colin Kaepernick in the recent NFL draft. Kaepernick is the only quarterback to throw for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in his collegiate career. He is a gifted athlete and the quarterback of the future in San Francisco.
Kaepernick has much to learn however, as the offense that he ran at the University of Nevada, "the Pistol," is not a pro-style offense. Under coach Chris Ault at Nevada, the Pistol incorporated a lot of option running in addition to a wide-open passing game. Kaepernick's athleticism was particularly effective in this scheme.
Kaepernick will need to learn and master the complex new offense in San Francisco. He will also need to learn how to see coverages and use his read progressions to find alternate receivers if his first or second options are covered.
He is the future at quarterback in San Francisco, but he's really a year or two away from being a truly effective NFL quarterback. If all goes according to plan, he will be able to utilize this season to watch and learn as much as possible.
The bottom line for the 49ers is that they need strong quarterback play and leadership. Without good play at this position, the 49ers will not have any chance to exceed eight wins this year.