49ers Position Battles: Quarterback

S LCorrespondent IJune 13, 2009

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 01:  Quarterbacks Alex Smith #11 and Shaun Hill #13 of the San Francisco 49ers look on during the 49ers Minicamp at their training facilities on May 1, 2009 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

As mini-camp for the 49ers continue throughout this summer, I want to take a look at each position on the team and break down each player that would either be trying to make waves during camp.

Currently on roster:

  • Alex Smith (entering 5th year)
  • Shaun Hill (entering 8th year)
  • Nate Davis (entering 1st year)
  • Damon Huard (entering 13th year)

At the end of the 2008 season, we assumed that the 49ers would give Shaun Hill the full-time starting job at the position. But when Mike Singletary announced that there would be a battle for the starting job (much like what happened the previous offseason), the team started to scramble.

Hill proved that he could lead the team to wins but apparently his recent performance wasn't enough to win him the starting job.

With a healthy Alex Smith, the 49ers look to have both Hill and Smith battle it out for the starting job. And to provide some veteran stability, the 49ers signed free agent Damon Huard.

Prior to the draft, there were some speculations on whether or not the 49ers might draft USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. The team did draft a quarterback in the fifth round: Nate Davis from Ball State.

Huard was brought in to be the veteran backup quarterback and unless something major happens, that will probably be his position all season long.

Davis is an interesting case. For starters, his learning disability has not been an issue during practices and wasn't an issue while he was playing at Ball State. Davis has a rocket arm with great accuracy. Given the fact that the offense isn't going to be pass heavy like he had at Ball State, it will provide Davis a great chance to slowly learn the new playbook.

As for Hill and Smith, this is where it becomes a little interesting. Hill has had the most recent success of the two. In fact, you can credit head coach Mike Singletary's hiring as coach to Hill. With Hill's brilliant play this past season, he proved that he can manage the offense and at the same time, lead them for game-winning drives.

Even in the road losses to Arizona and Miami, Hill played well enough to lead the team to victory. Both those games came to the last play. The knock on Hill is obviously his practice results. As well-documented, he doesn't always perform well during practices but it doesn't translate into that onto the field during a real game.

Smith on the other hand has been a little bit of the opposite. Smith has had some really great throws in recent weeks and his shoulder has not been giving him any problems. But Smith has yet to play a regular season NFL game since Week 10 of the 2007 season—and the last few games he played came while he was still hurt.

It seems that right now Hill SHOULD get the upper hand on the quarterback battle. However, there still might be a little push in management to give Smith (No. 1 overall pick in 2005) the best opportunity to succeed. Regardless of how Hill does, Smith will be right behind him into the preseason.

There probably won't be any final decision on this position battle until probably the second preseason game. By then, the team will have a better idea of who will be best suited to lead this team.

As for Huard and Davis, both will probably make the roster as backups. We might see Davis on the practice squad, but if he continues to show improvement, he might just squeak into the roster.


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