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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Mike McDaniel explains how Trey Lance has impressed the 49ers

Jun 10, 2021 at 6:49 AM--

Rookie Trey Lance has been getting practice reps since May 14, when the San Francisco 49ers kicked off their rookie minicamp. Organized team activities (OTAs), which included seven more practices, followed. Those were cut short following a couple of serious injuries to two potential key backups this week in Justin Skule and Tarvarius Moore.

Now, Lance will have until July 27 to study what he has learned and prepare for training camp.

The 49ers surrendered significant draft capital to trade up to select Lance at No. 3 overall. While viewed as raw, having only 17 games on his collegiate resume, his talent is undeniable. Kyle Shanahan fell in love with Lance's potential in January. The 21-year-old rookie is an athletic player with a high ceiling who the head coach can mold into his ideal quarterback.

"I think we're all very excited and fired up about where Trey is in terms of being coachable, wanting to be coached, his expectation for himself," offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel told reporters on Wednesday. "And, whether it's a quarterback, a center, or a running back, all you can ask for as a coach is that someone is embracing the process. And, I think that fires [Shanahan] up more than anything."

Obviously, Shanahan and McDaniel are excited about their young quarterback's enthusiasm toward the learning process. Lance was said to be a quick study and is proving to be eager to absorb as much information as possible. Despite being a top pick, there is no ego with Lance. He acknowledges what he doesn't know and realizes how much he has to learn. So, the quarterback has been ready to listen and work from day one.

"So, for me, my biggest thing is just getting in it and learning as much as I possibly can," Lance said after being drafted by the 49ers. "I'm just excited to get there, get to know the community, get to know the organization, and learn, like I said, just learn."

Lance went on to use the word "learn" 16 more times in the few minutes that he spoke with reporters, all while showing an eagerness to get to Santa Clara and go to work.

"Having Trey in house, it's been exciting because he is who we thought he was in terms of the diligent worker," McDaniel continued. "The guy is very smart, and he wants to do well, but he takes coaching. That's something that's undervalued in this day and age, I think, that people don't really give its true gravity. 'Hey, a guy is willing to hear constructive criticism and take that and move forward,' instead of getting their feelings hurt because we're not in the business of feelings. We're in the business of end results."

Lance provides Shanahan something he has lacked during his time in San Francisco — an athletic weapon at the game's most important position. Defenses will have to account not only for Lance's arm but also his legs and his ability to improvise. Defenses will have to play true 11-on-11 football rather than the typical 11-on-10 advantage against less mobile quarterbacks.

General manager John Lynch revealed that Shanahan started excitedly drawing up plays for Lance on April 14, on the plane returning from a trip to Columbus, Ohio, to watch Justin Fields work out.

"I remember coming back from Ohio State, and Justin Fields had had a fantastic workout," Lynch said in May. "But on the way back, we're on the plane — Jed (York) was nice enough to get us a plane — and Kyle's on his iPad with that [Apple] Pencil, and he's just grinding over there.

"Finally, he said, 'Look at this.' I was wondering what he was doing. Well, he was drawing up stuff with Trey in mind. We had just come from Justin Fields' (workout), and we both agreed his workout was fantastic. But that's when I said, 'He's really all in on this.' And the excitement he had, because he's doodling there, drawing up plays with Trey in mind."

Have Shanahan and McDaniel started drawing up Lance-specific plays for the 49ers' offense yet? Perhaps plays that utilize the quarterback's versatility or even trick plays keep the defense on edge.

"Again, you try not to get too far ahead of yourself," McDaniel said. "Of course, that temps your mind a little bit. Really, you have to get back to the basics. And, with a guy like Trey, you're just teaching him the offense and coaching him on fundamentals and seeing where he can get. Really preparing him for his 40 days off where he can work on his own and preparing him to compete in training camp.

"So, you do your best not to get ahead of yourself. You really try to focus on, 'Okay, what are we doing today? And can we get better at something today and move forward to the next day?'"

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