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Kaepernick's upside hard to miss

2011 Senior Bowl

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Posted Jan. 26, 2011 @ 9:50 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

MOBILE, Ala. — If you are one of the tallest players on the football field, you are going to stand out. If you're the tallest quarterback out there ... well, all eyes on you. 

So it is with Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, who measured in at 6-foot-4 and five-eighths inches on Monday and looks every bit that tall when he takes the field for the North team.

"I think height's always an advantage," Kaepernick was saying after Tuesday's practice. He had been asked about when his height was advantage — and when it was a disadvantage.

"It gives you more vision, seeing over the offensive line. Definitely running, (you've) got a little bit longer stride, so you can separate a little better. I really don't see a disadvantage of being this tall."

Nor would most scouts and coaches, if we took a straw poll. Kaepernick has the size desired in a passer. He also has the arm strength, as he showed when asked to throw deep in Tuesday's practice. If he needs to deliver the ball with pace, he can do just that. And he moves very, very well, considering his height and weight (225 pounds).

All in all, Kaepernick is one of the most intriguing players here, boasting all of the physical traits to be an NFL starter. He looks the part.

But can he play it?

At Nevada, Kaepernick was the point man for the "Pistol," Nevada's short-shotgun spread offense. At the Senior Bowl, and throughout the pre-draft process, coaches and evaluators will want to see him run a more conventional offense.

Kaepernick believes the biggest hurdle in the transition boils down to learning a new football language and speaking it properly.

"I think the biggest adjustment for me is the terminology," Kaepernick said. "We have some of the same concepts as far as the passing game goes, but the difference is what they call it. I think being able to go in the huddle and call the play and know exactly where the receiver is going to be on that play is the biggest thing I'm going to have to get used to this week."

While Kaepernick's arm strength is very apparent, his accuracy and touch are areas he could stand to improve upon, with the latter something Bengals QB coach Ken Zampese pointed out Tuesday. Both are skills that can be improved with practice. He's off to a good start in the accuracy department, as he completed a career-best 64.9 percent of his throws as a senior.

And there's no reason Kaepernick — a former star high school pitcher in California who was a 43rd-round selection of the Chicago Cubs in the 2009 MLB Draft — shouldn't be able to take something off his fastball and throw a strike, too. At Nevada, he noted, he was asked to throw "everything on a line."

Kaepernick has an elongated delivery, but it's a style that suits him well. "I think part of it comes from baseball, and part of it (is), my arms are so lanky that it just kind of comes out that way," he said. "A lot of people knock the way I throw, but I feel like if I can make every throw and the receivers are catching the ball, there shouldn't be a problem."

Kaepernick has played to positive reviews thus far. Boise State WR Austin Pettis, who played against Kaepernick's Nevada teams in the WAC and is his teammate on the North squad, sees a passer who's skilled, athletic and in command.  

"I know a lot of people talked about him being that dual-threat quarterback, but I think he's really turning some heads right now with the way he's throwing the ball and understanding this offense really good," he said.

North head coach Marvin Lewis has liked Kaepernick's ability to improvise in a distinctly professional way.

"I think the thing that's impressed me in two practices is that we've had some free rushers come through a little bit, and Colin's been able to come and move around them and deliver the ball downfield, which is part of playing quarterback in the National Football League," he said. "His pocket presence, how he moves in the pocket, he's done a nice job with that."

Today, Colin Kaepernick is a prospect. Tomorrow? Insert your favorite applicable saying about uncertainty here. All we can be certain of is that he has a skill set that Draft Day decision makers don't dislike. Zampese summed up the best parts of his skill set succinctly:

"He can move and make plays on the run."

That combination will open some doors for you.

And did we mention he was tall?


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