Taylor Mays and Glen Coffee have more in common than being talented, young reserves on the 49ers roster. They're both eager to showcase strengths of their game this Sunday, which happen to revolve around the physical side of football.
Mays was known for applying big hits as a college safety at USC, which led to the 49ers drafting him No. 49 overall. So far he's not been able to fully demonstrate how his tackling ability can translate in the pro game, but that will all change come Sunday.
"It's time to go full speed," Mays said with a little chuckle following Thursday's morning training camp session. "I'm just ready to go out there, hit somebody and celebrate with my teammates."
Coming from a college program known for its unity, Mays said he enjoys the game most when he and his teammates are collectively having fun on the field, just as long as they're experiencing success as well.
Mays' passion has carried over into his preparation as well.
"He's always the guy at the end of the meetings sitting in there," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "He's a perfectionist, you can see that already. That's the one thing you can never judge when you have kids coming out. I love his heart, love his desire and how he wants to be good."
Coffee on the other hand, is looking to continue establishing himself as a physical runner in the NFL – that's why he added 17 pounds of muscle in the offseason following his rookie campaign.
Standing at a comfortable playing weight of 209 pounds, the 6-foot running back plans to showcase his improved between-the-tackles ground game beginning in the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Getting in the game is what we live for, so I'm ready for it," Coffee said. "It's what we practice for."
Both players have consistently flashed ability throughout the 49ers first week-and-a-half of camp, but the successes are not the object of their focus; they tend to concentrate on the mistakes.
Case in point, Mays came up with his first interception of training camp on Thursday, picking off David Carr in a goal line 11-on-11 period. The interception was of little consolation to the three-time college All-American however.
"I'm more focused on the stuff I messed up on than the stuff I did well on. The biggest thing for me is understanding my assignments and what the coaches want me to do within the defense. I'm starting to figure that out and it's making a lot more sense for me out there."
Mays said his he's already feeling the benefit of having his "eyes in the right places." The coaching staff has seen improvements in that area too and has given him positive feedback when he reacts to a play favorably in practice.
"That's good that they're noticing it, obviously it has taken effort to make improvements in my game, but I just have to be consistent with it. Now it's about doing it all the time and now that I have my eyes getting better, I can fix something else. It's a continuous process."
Coffee also said his development is not completed, but he's happy with where he's at heading into his second season of professional football.
"I put the extra weight on to help out with the physicality of running the ball. I feel like it's helping already," said the team's third-round pick in 2009. "It's definitely a good fit. I feel faster and quicker."
With starters expected to see limited playing time in the opening preseason contest, both Mays and Coffee are prepared for what's to come and eagerly anticipate getting back to what they do best – playing physical football.
Notes and QuotesSeveral deep passes were completed Thursday while the team worked on situational drills, short-yardage, goal-line, red zone and two-minute scenarios. But one of them stood out in particular for a different reason. As Carr heaved a 50 yarder down the field during 11-on-11 work, Shawntae Spencer was running stride for stride with wideout Ted Ginn Jr., as if he was in Ginn's front pocket. As Ginn made the catch, Spencer was in position to make a play on the ball. At the last second however, Spencer slowed up to allow Ginn to make the catch, avoiding a collision by electing not to swipe at Ginn's arms. The veteran move by the seven-year cornerback was a smart one, considering the unexpected rash of injuries that the 49ers have endured. Spencer was in position to make the play, but didn't over-commit to it and risk the chance of injury for either player. Ginn also caught another 50-yard touchdown pass, this time from Alex Smith.
Smith's best pass of the morning, and arguably the best play of the morning, was a 20-yard deep corner route perfectly thrown to tight end Delanie Walker. Not only did the pass hit the speedy Walker in stride down the left sideline, but it was lofted perfectly over Mays' coverage and could only be caught by Walker.
However, play-of-the-morning honors went to Josh Morgan, who out-jumped two defenders to catch Carr's red zone, jump-ball pass. Neither linebacker Keaton Kristick nor cornerback Patrick Stoudamire could manage to knock the ball out of Morgan's strong grip.
Dominique Zeigler – have yourself a day. That's exactly what the 6-foot-3, 185-pound wideout did on Thursday. Not only did he make several impressive catches that went for touchdowns, but he did so in impressive fashion. Zeigler out-jumped every defender in sight and showed the play-making ability that 49ers coaches have long seen on the practice fields over the past four seasons. "Any time you can go out there and make plays, it helps your resume," Zeigler said.