OTA notebook: WRs making quite an impression

The drastically-improved 49ers' wide receivers corps - particularly the newcomers - have been making a strong impression and developing a quick rapport with quarterback Alex Smith at the Niners' first organized team activity practice sessions of the year this week.

Wide receiver is a position where the 49ers need an upgrade, as evidenced by the addition of veterans Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and rookie A.J. Jenkins, who was the team's first-round draft choice.

The 49ers are hoping Smith can develop a chemistry with several of those receivers, and he seemed to be throwing quite a bit to Moss in Wednesday's OTA session. Head coach Jim Harbaugh refused to acknowledge that Smith has been targeting Moss more, though.

"Alex has really been, in the two days out here, has been spreading the ball very well," Harbaugh said. "He's got a lot of options. That's been evident too for two days. Randy's a great target. He's not a B.S.er. He's rock solid. We just couldn't be happier with him. Couldn't be any more happy with him.

"Another guy that's really standing out is Mario Manningham. His first two days of OTAs, played extremely well. Michael (Crabtree), Kyle (Williams), I'm probably leaving somebody out right there. Oh, A.J. Jenkins is doing a phenomenal job."

Harbaugh agreed that Moss seems to be as fast as ever, despite being 35 years old and sitting out the 2011 season.

"Well, I think (his speed) is really good," Harbaugh said. "He's one of the fastest guys on our team when you put the watch on certain drills, so that's all I have to go off of."

If Moss provides the speed, then Crabtree provides the hands in Harbaugh's mind. Harbaugh said on a radio program recently that Crabtree has the best hands he's ever seen. He reiterated that on Wednesday.

"Yes, yes. He's got tremendous hands," Harbaugh said. "Well, the comment stands on its own merit. I know you guys (in the media) have dissected it about every which way it can be dissected. But, it is literal. It is literal fact, what I believe as I see it and believe it to be."

One noticeable absence among the wide receivers is Ted Ginn Jr., who sat out Wednesday's OTA.

"He's working through something at this point, physically," said Harbaugh, who's not sure when he'll be back. "We'll see. He'll be back when he's 100 percent. We're not going to take any chances, but it's coming along very well."

Cornerback Carlos Rogers also sat out Wednesday's session for an undisclosed reason.

QUARTERBACK COLIN KAEPERNICK HAS BEEN RUNNING the No. 2 offense at OTAs, and Harbaugh acknowledged he is the backup quarterback at this point, ahead of Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien.

"Yes, Colin's the backup quarterback as it's slotted right now. And, how close? We'll see," Harbaugh said. "That's why we're out here to figure out who the starters are, who the backups are, who the contributors are. All four of our guys are NFL quarterbacks. All four of those guys will play in the NFL for a very long time in our estimation."

Johnson played for Harbaugh when Harbaugh was the coach at the University of San Diego, an FCS (formerly Division I-AA) school.

FOUR MONTHS AFTER BOTCHING A PAIR of punt returns in January's NFC Championship Game loss to the Giants, Kyle Williams opened the 49ers' first organized team practice sessions for veterans this week in a battle for a roster spot.

San Francisco brought in significant competition at the position, signing free agents Moss and Manningham and using their first-round pick last month on Jenkins in an effort to improve the league's 29th-ranked passing game.

Williams said he isn't running from the memory of how the 49ers' 2011 season ended and is trying to learn from the experience.

"I haven't really stopped ever since a week after that last game, I've been going," Williams told local reporters after Tuesday's practice, which was closed to the media. "It was a tough time, obviously – for me and for the whole team. But the way these guys had my back, they continue to have my back, the way they continue to have my back. That coupled with the work ethic has kind of been a good therapy for me."

The sixth-round pick in 2010 is bringing a competitive mindset as he faces a stiff test to make the 2012 roster. He was third on the 49ers in receptions last season, but that was with just 20 catches for 241 yards as Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis combined for 139 receptions – hence the offseason moves to bolster the receiving corps.

Williams called the competition "intense," but he's looking forward to the challenge.

His name has also been tied to one of the biggest stories in the NFL during the offseason following audiotape that indicated Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams instructed his players to target Williams during the 49ers' playoff victory over New Orleans. Williams said he has suffered four concussions through his first two NFL seasons, but that it comes "with the territory."

THE 49ERS ALSO ADDED TO THEIR BACKFIELD with the free agent addition of bruising running back Brandon Jacobs and rookie playmaker LaMichael James. They join Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Antonio Dixon, but Gore isn't concerned about his role diminishing.

"I feel I can still do everything pretty good ... catch, run, block," said Gore, who is entering his eighth season. "I'm going to do what I've always been doing."

Gore led the 49ers with 1,211 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground while averaging 4.3 yards per carry last season. However, his last 100-yard rushing game of the year came in Week 9, although he did average 5.6 yards in the team's two playoff games.

Gore said he took six weeks off after the season to recover from "bumps and bruises" physically and the mental pain of losing the NFC Championship Game.

"All of us running backs have different styles," said Hunter, who finished his rookie season second on the team with 473 yards on 4.2 yards per carry. "All of us are going to compete to make the team."

SECOND-YEAR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN DANIEL KILGORE, drafted as a guard, has been taking snaps at center as well, although starter Jonathan Goodwin returned for Tuesday's opening practice.

"It definitely benefitted me being able to take the snaps with the ones," Kilgore said. "I know Goody's a great player and a great teammate. I know he's been working hard as well, probably as much, if not more than I have. I'm glad he's back so I can learn from him."

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories