There were plenty of graduations taking place over the weekend, most of them academic in nature. On Monday, however, the San Francisco 49ers had a commencement of sorts, following the conclusion of three weeks of on-field "Football School" sessions.
Up next, the 49ers will begin Phase 3 of the team's offseason program which will see 10 days of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) spread out over a three-week period.
Count second-year running back Kendall Hunter as one of the many young 49ers players eager to begin OTAs. After all, last year's fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State went on to rush 112 times for 473 yards with two touchdowns.
And, Hunter accomplished all of that without a full NFL offseason.
So it should come as no surprise to hear the 5-foot-7, 199-pound runner speak openly about the confidence he's gaining in offseason workouts and how it's helping him prepare for his sophomore campaign.
"Even though I'm not a rookie, it's my first time going through (an NFL offseason) like the rookies," Hunter shared. "It's been good, everything's slowed down."
Similar sentiments were expressed by third-year cornerback Tramaine Brock, who recorded five tackles and two interceptions in 2011.
The 5-foot-10, 197-pound cornerback who made the 49ers in 2010 undrafted out of Belhaven, continues to feel more confident with each day he's able to work with the defensive coaching staff.
"Every year since after my rookie season I've gotten more and more comfortable," said Brock who was active for 11 regular season games and both San Francisco playoff games last season. "I feel like I'm going to start playing like I did when I was in high school and college."
With the first two phases of offseason practices focusing on non-contact work, Brock has been able to keep a strong focus on his fundamentals. The OTA portion of the offseason, however, signals the start of players wearing helmets for practice. Offensive vs. defensive drills will come at the start of the team's June 11th mandatory minicamp.
Brock is using these stages of the offseason to get a better grasp of Vic Fangio's defensive system and to also get ready for the competitions that will take place down the road.
"It's going to be competition, but not the full competition," Brock said of the upcoming OTAs. "Either way, I'm ready to get after it."
"I just look to get work, look to get better," Brock added. "I want to see how I've done this offseason, see how my footwork looks and see what things I need to work on."
Second-year quarterback Scott Tolzien, who went undrafted in 2011 out of the University of Wisconsin, also benefited greatly from 49ers Football School.
Tolzien's first full offseason in the NFL is making a world of a difference, too.
"People forget that last season all us second-year guys, we didn't have any of this," said the quarterback who spent his rookie training camp with the San Diego Chargers.
"We were back home playing the waiting game," Tolzien detailed. "In a lot of aspects, we're still playing a little bit of catch-up, making up for lost time. It's been great to start over and learn the offense from the ground up."
Now that he's working with teammates at 49ers headquarters, Tolzien has used the time to concentrate on fundamental work while adding to his understanding of the team's offensive concepts.
"They say offseason is when you can fine-tune your mechanics," said the second-year quarterback, who's especially enjoyed getting down timing with some of the team's new wide receivers.
Hunter also sees himself making strides in improving his techniques: footwork and timing his explosion through open running lanes.
"I learned in this league, it doesn't matter how bad or how good, if you're not taking the proper footwork, doing the right reads, none of your talent matters," Hunter stressed.
So that's why the young running back has been in constant communication with easy-to-recognize running backs coach Tom Rathman, who's been wearing his team-issued blue collar work shirt all offseason.
"He started it last year," Hunter said of his coach's practice attire. "When you put on the shirt, you're going to work."
Hunter might not be wearing his own blue collar shirt out on the practice fields, but he shares Rathman's mindset of constantly striving for improvement.
"I'll tell you this, jumping in and stacking every day helps," Hunter explained. "They put in some things, I get a chance to rep it, take it in, study it and go over it.
"It's good to get in there and go over everything."
Hunter also uses veterans like Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs and Rock Cartwright for extra guidance.
"The vets don't get as many reps, but it's good for us young guys," Hunter shared. "You have to go through it and it makes you better. You learn from the vets, they'll tell you what you're doing wrong and they'll help you out."
Soon enough, training camp and all of its demands will be on the hearts and minds of the 49ers players. But until that happens, the offseason remains the time to build on last year's accomplishments.
"I think it's great with the progression," Tolzien added. "We're not jumping into things; you kind of get to ease into it, especially mentally. For a quarterback, half your battle is the mental aspect of it. It's nice to not be thrown out there into the fire.
"You've got a chance to ease your way into it and learn it from the bottom up. From the foundation all the way to the details."
The details will continue to be expanded on as the team heads into OTA sessions.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Hunter said. "I didn't have any of this last year. Just going through all this makes you that much better, but you also have to put the work in."