I want to brighten up the mood here on BASG. There’s been quite a bit of doom and gloom lately surrounding the San Francisco 49ers. Some folks are still smarting over the Super Bowl loss and the prospect of trying to climb that hill all over again. It’s the NFL, a league with the most effective salary cap in sports when it comes to creating parity from year-to-year. Teams can turn it around quickly. Holding down the throne isn’t so easy anymore.
Enough of the negativity! East Bay Sports Guy wants to make you cry without at least providing some tissues. I’m here to wipe away those tears. Just how far the 49ers will go this year, nobody knows, but I’m quite certain we’ll see improvement in at least one, very important area:
In case it hasn’t set in yet, I’ll remind you: this is the first time in eight years San Francisco hasn’t had question marks at the position going into offseason activities. Colin Kaepernick is the answer to the question 49ers fans have been asking since the Dennis Erickson era. I lobbied tirelessly for Alex Smith, and now I’ll follow his Kansas City career detached from the outcome. There’s more important progress to track here in San Francisco.
Has anyone else considered the idea of a sophomore slump yet? I’m sure Pete Prisco has tweeted about it (although not knowing for sure is one of the many benefits of not following him). Technically, Kaepernick is a redshirt sophomore, but he’s a second-year starter nonetheless, meaning higher expectations and more time for defenses to “figure him out.”
Packers’ rookie defensive tackle Datone Jones is already convinced the 49ers’ quarterback can’t keep running the way he has been, which doesn’t do much beyond raising a few eyebrows and making the teams’ Week 1 game at Candlestick even more interesting than it’s already billed to be.
But Jones could be right: Kaepernick may not run the way he did in 2012, and he may not need to either. The quarterback’s career arc from his senior year in high school has shown marked improvements in every necessary area.
2005-06 – Senior at Pitman High School in Turlock
His team went 8-4, but Kaepernick dazzled as a passer. He completed 112-of-188 passes for 1954 yards with 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. But I was more interested in his rushing statistics. He carried the ball 44 times, amassing (wait for it…) -21 yards. He only accumulated positive yardage in only four contests, with a single-game high of 23 yards. The quarterback actually finished his high school career with -2 rushing yards.
2006-07 – Freshman at University of Nevada
Kaepernick’s transition to Chris Ault’s Pistol offense was easy because he ran the Wing-T at Pitman. The two offenses differed only by positioning in the backfield: in the Pistol, the quarterback is lined up midway to shotgun with a running back behind him, while the Wing-T features pure shotgun with a running back beside the quarterback. The major adjustment would be the Pistol’s demands for the quarterback to run the ball himself, and Kaepernick began his adjustment immediately.
When all was said and done in his freshman campaign, the quarterback had completed 133 of his 247 passes for 2175 yards. He threw 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The improvement this year came in the area of rushing, however. Kaepernick broke out as a ball carrier, rushing 105 times for 593 yards and six touchdowns.
2007-08 Sophomore at University of Nevada
The production took off in his sophomore year. Kaepernick’s passing prowess exploded: 208-for-383 for 2849 yards, 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His rushing improved as well, as his carries only increased by 56 (161) while his yards increased by over 500 (1130). He notched 11 more rushing touchdowns (17) as well.
2008-09 Junior at University of Nevada
This was the only year in which he didn’t improve astronomically, although there wasn’t a huge drop off either. All told, he completed 166-of-282 passes for 2052 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He rushed the ball 161 times for 1183 yards, amassing 16 touchdowns.
2009-10 Senior at University of Nevada
His grand finale was also Kaepernick’s best collegiate performance. He completed 233 of 359 attempts for 3022 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His rushing numbers were equally impressive: 173 carries, 1206 yards and 20 touchdowns. Every single category saw a new career high.
We know the story — Kaepernick redshirted his rookie season and eased his way into starting action before eventually supplanting Alex Smith midway through the season. After 10 starts (13 games played), he completed 136-of-218 passes for 1814 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He rushed 63 times for 415 yards and five touchdowns.
It’s hard to gauge just how his season would have panned out over the course of starting a full 16-games, but it’s clear Kaepernick wasn’t missing a beat in his transition to the National Football League. His ability to adjust to what his coaches demand of him, combined with an insane work ethic bode well for the quarterback’s ability to improve as he forges a professional career.
This means Kaepernick will have to account for teams taking away the run by passing the ball. He did it in the 49ers’ NFC Championship Game victory over the Falcons, and he rallied the team back into the Super Bowl with his arm two weeks later. He showed an ability to adjust to a run-first quarterback scheme in moving from Pitman to Nevada, so adjusting back to a pass-first offense in his first full season as 49ers’ quarterback isn’t too far-fetched.
He has improved each year, and we shouldn’t expect 2013 to be any different. While questions still abound regarding the 49ers’ upcoming season, Kaepernick is the reason one position finally has stability and promise.