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Vance McDonald Sees Himself as ‘Different Player’

Posted Jun 1, 2014

Looking back on his rookie campaign, a year in which McDonald caught eight passes for 119 receiving yards in four starts, the second-round draft pick sees room for growth in year two.


Vance McDonald looks and feels different these days.

The long-haired tight end has a whole new perspective on how to approach his job with the San Francisco 49ers. As for his appearance, McDonald’s blonde locks are a few inches longer than what you saw in 2013.

The 6-foot-4, 267-pound tight end enters his second season in the NFL as a more developed player.

Looking back on his rookie campaign, a year in which McDonald caught eight passes for 119 receiving yards in four starts, the second-round draft pick sees room for growth in year two of his professional career.

Year one is so far from his memory.

“It was a blur,” McDonald told 49ers.com after a recent OTA session. “There was so much on your plate and on top of that you have to learn the playbook. Not knowing what to expect, going in now, having had that year, I feel like a completely different player.”

McDonald, who is slated to back up Pro Bowler Vernon Davis, has made the most of added opportunities in the offseason program.

“I’m more comfortable,” he said. “I know what to look for. I know what to look at. I know how to evaluate players on defense. There are so many things.”

Helping matters is Eric Mangini, an NFL coaching veteran making the transition to tight ends coach, whose football acumen has mostly been built from years on the defensive side of the ball.

Mangini used his defensive background in the capacity of senior offensive consultant for the 49ers last season. But when assistant offensive line coach Tim Drevno took a coaching position at USC, the 49ers reworked the offensive staff. Tight ends coach Reggie Davis took over Drevno’s spot and Mangini replaced Davis.

Mangini served as an offensive assistant for the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. His only other NFL coaching experience on offense took place with the 49ers last season.

Even so, McDonald has already learned from Mangini.

“You can’t replace experience,” the young tight end said. “With so many years on the defensive side of the ball, it’s like you’re looking at the game from a completely different perspective. So, it’s really awesome to get that newness and freshness and see the game in a different way.”

McDonald credited coach Davis for helping him as a rookie. Mangini’s approach to the position is unique. The same can be said of his drills.

“He’s doing a really good job because he’s so detail oriented,” McDonald said, “and he’s always looking out for our best interest and trying to develop us the best that we can.”

One of the more eye-catching portions of the OTA workouts featured tight ends running through a gauntlet drill led by Mangini. One by one, each tight end released off the line of scrimmage, working their way open to haul in a deep corner route. The catch to the drill was dodging blocking pads being thrown their way as the pass was being lofted over their shoulders.

Who was tossing the small pads in the air?

That would be Mangini.

“Coach Mangini is trying to use our individual periods to use all the different fundamentals you need for the position,” McDonald said. “We’re working on them and mastering them there so we can apply them to the game when we’re going full speed.”

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