Second glances

After two days and four practice sessions, here's a rundown of players who are emerging at the 49ers' first full-squad minicamp of 2005.

--- The best place to start seems to be with rookie quarterback Alex Smith, particularly since he'll be a starting point for the 49ers in so many phases in the days, months and years to come. On his 21st birthday Saturday, Smith seemed to gain a little bit more command of the position by the minute. He is in the spotlight and is a focal point of this camp because the team is throwing a lot at him to get him in the flow and also accustomed to the challenges that lay ahead of him. But Smith is handling it with aplomb, and he throws tight spirals that get where they're going quickly and with accuracy. And the kid is showing how much he wants it. He remained after Saturday's afternoon practice with Jeremy Newberry and quarterbacks coach Jim Hostler just to work on taking snaps from the two-time Pro Bowl center and his plant step while pulling away after the snap.

--- Ken Dorsey also is opening some eyes. After a poor effort at the April 2-3 practice sessions during the team's early minicamp for veterans, it appeared Dorsey might be the odd quarterback out now that Smith has arrived on the scene. But in a rather stunning development, Dorsey has looked the equal to – and maybe even better than – any quarterback on the field the past two days. His wobbly, sailing throws of last month and much of the past two years have been replaced by strong spirals that are finding their mark with increasing regularity. And Dorsey's experience as a pro also is beginning to shine through. While acknowledging that the team plans to make it a two-way battle for the starting job between Smith and incumbent Tim Rattay, coach Mike Nolan also said, "I don't want to rule out Ken Dorsey. Ken has done an excellent job. Ken is in the thick of it. He's done very well up to this point and I am encouraged by Ken as well."

--- Frank Gore's shiftiness and low center of gravity allows him to burrow through holes and find openings and lanes. He is getting a lot of repetitions and is difficult not to notice as he barrels forward like a straight-line locomotive only to make sudden cuts that find him going in another direction in a split second – and then in another direction after that.

--- Big Jonas Jennings has settled in nicely at left tackle, looking every bit like the fixture of the offensive line that the team expects him to be – and has paid him to be. He takes up a lot of space, and nobody is getting around him in team drills. His footwork is sound and he appears effortless as he performs his blocking technique.

--- Cornerback Daven Holly's break on the ball is quick, instinctive and impressive. The first of the team's four seventh-round draft picks, Holly ended Saturday's afternoon practice by flying in from the right corner to bat away Dorsey's pass just as it was about to land into the hands of a receiver, drawing exclamations from linebacker Derek Smith and having Niners' coaches figuring that pretty play was a pretty good place to end the day's work. Holly isn't backing down from any challenges.

--- Neither is rookie cornerback Derrick Johnson, who was selected 10 draft slots ahead of Holly late in the sixth round. Johnson is tough in bump coverage and is sticking to receivers. He's going to battle to be the team's fourth cornerback, and if Mike Rumph ultimately moves to safety as many suspect by the end of the summer, Johnson could be in the mix for the vital No. 3 role.

--- Marques Douglas is fitting in just fine with his new team, thank you. The Niners' second-biggest prize in free agency, Douglas looks perfectly comfortable at right defensive end in the team's 3-4 scheme, which he should be since that's where he played the last three years in the same scheme for Nolan in Baltimore. Douglas already is showing how vital an acquisition he is, because this team needs a big man like him who knows what he's doing at the position.

--- Steve Bush is another good free-agent hire, which makes you wonder why he still was out there on the open market before the Niners were able to re-sign him Thursday. Now being used exclusively at fullback, he is a bull who looks even better (not to mention bigger) than starter Fred Beasley when he has the football in his hands or is swinging out of the backfield to snare short passes. That's understandable, since Bush has spent most of his eight-year NFL career playing tight end.

--- With Shawntae Spencer held out of Saturday's drills with a tweaked hamstring, Rayshun Reed stepped out with the first-team defense for the first play of team drills to end the morning session, an indication of how that unheralded prospect – who came out of nowhere last year to start in Week 10 against Carolina as an undrafted rookie – continues to make steady progress and grow as a player.

--- Billy Bajema, the team's third seventh-round pick, is making an impression at tight end and getting a lot opportunities to display his receiving skills with starter Eric Johnson out of action with a minor injury. If Bajema can handle the other aspects of the position when the pads come on, he could be another pleasant seventh-round find at the position for the Niners, just like Johnson was.

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