In no particular order, here are 20 offseason storylines to track (with 20 must-read headlines) that will get you ready for when the San Francisco 49ers begin a nine-week voluntary offseason program on April 21.
1. More Lattimore
Marcus Lattimore was a medical redshirt in his rookie campaign due to a serious knee injury at the end of his collegiate career, but he’ll now have the license and ability to compete for playing time as a sophomore in San Francisco. No doubt, Lattimore will be one of the most talked about players on the roster.
READ: Lattimore to Hit Offseason Running
2. Center of Attention
Jonathan Goodwin remains unsigned and Daniel Kilgore was given a contract extension. The team currently has nobody strictly as a “C” on its roster. Adam Snyder has experience at every offensive line position and Joe Looney saw playing time last year at guard. Who will seize control of this battle?
READ: Kilgore Signing Epitomizes Philosophy
3. Same Coaches, New Roles
Vernon Davis is coming off a second Pro Bowl season, but how will his game evolve with a new position coach? Enter former senior offensive consultant Eric Mangini. The team’s new tight ends coach has been coaching in the NFL since 1995. San Francisco’s former tight ends coach Reggie Davis will also have a chance to diversify his experience and impact a new positon group as the team’s assistant offensive line coach.
READ: Mangini to Coach TEs; Reggie Davis Reassigned
4. On the Mend
The 49ers will have four opening day starters looking to bounce-back from season ending injuries: NaVorro Bowman (torn left ACL), guard Mike Iupati (fractured left fibula), fullback Bruce Miller (fractured scapula) and nose tackle Ian Williams (broken ankle). Bowman’s rehab will take time. Iupati’s status isn’t known. Miller and Williams both have said they expect to be ready for offseason work.
READ: NaVorro Bowman Upbeat about Knee Recovery
5. International Import
Lawrence Okoye was at 49ers headquarters last season practically more than the custodians. Okoye, a former British Olympian, soaked up every bit of knowledge during his first full season with the team. Now it’s time to put it to use during “Football School,” OTAs and minicamp.
READ: Lawrence Okoye: Why I Chose Football
6. Kaepernick, the Passer
We all know Colin Kaepernick is a gifted athlete and takes great pride in his personal fitness. So when 49ers.com traveled to Miami to document the quarterback’s workout routine, some people were up in arms about Kaepernick not working on pocket passing. That will come in the offseason program under the watch of a QB guru named Jim Harbaugh.
READ: Kaepernick Sets Pace in Miami Workouts
7. Perfect Attendance
Thirty-one players had perfect attendance in the team’s voluntary offseason program. Those players have t-shirts and certificates to prove their accomplishments. Harbaugh often says the 49ers are a “meritocracy” and consistency in the offseason allows young players to climb the ranks in the system.
READ: Do You Speak Harbaugh? A Guide to Your 49ers Coach
8. Next ILB Up
With Bowman out for the nine-week program, young inside linebackers will have the opportunity to maximize opportunities alongside seven-time Pro Bowler Patrick Willis. Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody are in line for that role. Wilhoite, an exclusive rights free agent, was tendered a one-year contract.
READ: 49ers Tender Dobbs, Wilhoite
9. Meet the New Guy
Antoine Bethea, Blaine Gabbert, Jonathan Martin and Chris Cook will have to play the name game this offseason. There’s a locker room full of new teammates they’ll need to learn about in the offseason. First impressions are key and all four newcomers will have opportunity to showcase their work ethic.
READ: Five Facts about 49ers S Antoine Bethea
10. Brock and...
Chris Culliver? Eric Wright? Perrish Cox? Darryl Morris? The offseason will allow the 49ers to evaluate cornerbacks and decide who is in line to start opposite of Tramaine Brock in 2014.
READ: Five Facts about 49ers CB Chris Cook
11. More Deals?
Trent Baalke isn’t one to rush. The track record of the 49ers general manager shows a history of patience. The team doesn’t have a hefty amount of salary cap room left and is likely saving up for contract extensions with “trusted agents,” but you never know if there could be an under-the-radar signing down the road. Nnamdi Asomugha was an example of that last year.
READ: San Francisco 49ers 2014 Offseason Scorecard
12. Offseason Hidden Gem
Last year it was Dan Skuta. San Francisco used free agency to add Skuta, a former inside linebacker with the Cincinnati Bengals, and turned him into an outside linebacker. Skuta worked hard at his new spot and ended up having a solid 2013 season.
READ: Plays of the Year: Dan Skuta Scores TD in the UK
13. Tank Gets Rolling
Lattimore isn’t the only anticipated member of San Francisco's 2013 draft class. Tank Carradine, too, is ready to join the veterans for a full offseason of work. The pass-rushing defensive lineman believes his quickness will help him beat interior blockers.
READ: Tank Carradine 'Over' Injury, Eager to Play
14. Martin Reunites with College Coaches
The new offensive lineman on the 49ers roster played for Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman at Stanford. The familiarity is key as Martin looks to find a role on his second NFL team. The only question now is where will Martin practice primarily? Typically, San Francisco’s coaches allow the linemen to move around and try different spots in the offseason. Martin might be allowed to try playing guard in addition to tackle.
READ: Five Facts about 49ers OT Jonathan Martin
15. Second-year Weapons
Quinton Patton has been training with Kaepernick in Miami. It’s a wise move for a second-year wideout looking to grab the team’s No. 3 receiver job. Vance McDonald, the team’s second-round draft pick at tight end, could also be a bigger option for the team in 2014. Offseason practices will be key for both players as they look to increase their stat totals in 2014.
READ: McDonald, Patton to Expand Roles
16. Who is No. 64?
Not nose tackle Mike Purcell, the other No. 64… That’s Luke Marquardt and we don’t know a ton about him, other than he was willing to take part in a notable Alex Boone prank this past season. Marquardt was sidelined in 2013 due to a broken foot. At 6-foot-8, 315 pounds, Marquardt is a sizable prospect to say the least.
READ: Boone Provides 'Dunk Cam' on Kaepernick
17. Return Duties
Time on task allowed LaMichael James to spark the 49ers return game in the later stages of 2013. The team doesn’t have a ton of experienced return men behind James, but the offseason practices allow plenty of young players to work on fielding kicks.
READ: James Provides Big Returns on MNF
18. Future Contract Crew
San Francisco signed 13 players to Reserve/Future contracts on Jan. 22. Eight of the players have previously had stints on San Francisco's offseason and practice squad rosters. It’ll be interesting to see the progress of those 13 players, a group that includes two new wide receivers with regular season experience, David Reed and DeMarco Sampson.
READ: 49ers Sign 13 Players to Reserve/Future Contracts
19. Rookie Work
Following the 2014 NFL Draft (May 8-10), the 49ers are allowed to hold a rookie minicamp on either the first or second weekend following the draft. The team will also have a seven-week rookie developmental program that will allow the incoming players to get adjusted to life in the NFL. Without veterans around, rookies can truly benefit from what they're learning. Just ask Eric Reid.
READ: 49ers Offseason OTA, Minicamp Dates Announced
20. Does Harbaugh Return to Court?
Judge Judy’s court, that is. The 49ers coach made a memorable TV cameo last offseason and we can only hope that Harbaugh is invited back for another taping in 2014.
READ: Harbaugh Attends Judge Judy Filming
Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments section of this post.