At the conclusion of the San Francisco 49ers three-day veteran minicamp on Thursday, three things were clear about Colin Kaepernick:
-He's as confident as ever.
-He's enjoying the team's fast-paced practices.
-He's not afraid to make improvisational plays at a moment's notice.
All three observations were co-signed by Geep Chryst, the first-year offensive coordinator of the 49ers, who also happened to be Kaepernick's positon coach for his first four NFL seasons.
Kaepernick finished the mandatory minicamp completing 11 of 16 pass attempts (with two drops) in team periods. He also completed 5 of 7 passes in 7-on-7 work.
Chryst approved of Kaepernick's on-field progress and also noted how the young signal-caller is balancing all that is expected of him.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence," the OC said during an open media session with San Francisco's entire coaching staff. "I think he's having fun playing football. I think it's awful important to him, so how do you catch the right balance between, I'm serious here and it's still great to be with my teammates?"
For Chryst, the key is seeing Kaepernick lead by example and at times, with words.
"There's a serious side to Colin about working hard," Chryst said. "There's a side where he'll get on people if we're not operating, and then there's that side where you feel confidence and you see within his demeanor - that's a positive."
Kaepernick's numbers (touchdown passes and quarterback rating) dropped slightly in 2014. He did, however, improve his completion percentage and passing yardage. Even so, Chryst was quick to detail his signal-caller's progress at the conclusion of the nine-week offseason program.
"Well-coached teams don't have penalties," Chryst began. "We had six touchdowns nullified on penalties last year, five in the pass game and that's not good enough. You add those back in, and your 8-8 record, you can make a strong argument would have been 10-6. You can also make a strong argument that statistically that Kap was right where he was in the previous years. But the fouls happened.
"As coaches, we like to try to emphasize that as a do-right thing."
The coaches are also emphasizing an up-tempo theme to this year's offseason work.
The idea was first developed by head coach Jim Tomsula, a well-rounded football mind who informed his offensive staff that the toughest teams to defend all played with great urgency. So that is a big reason why the offensive and defensive units incorporated game-like structure to 11-on-11 drills. Players on both sides of the ball had to sub in and out of their respective huddles from opposing sidelines.
"We're trying to put together good plays back to back," Chryst said. "Once you string plays together, first downs will follow and eventually you'll get into scoring territory."
The fast-paced offense is twofold in helping Kaepernick's development. It adds to the team's chances of running more plays per game, which could lead to greater stats. It also fuels the team's aggressive mindset for 2015.
"All athletes want to get into rhythm, and Kap's a great rhythm athlete," Chryst said. "So one of the ways we can help him get into rhythm... get in and out of the huddle with some tempo and allow him to see what defenses are trying to do to take him away. He's bright enough and experienced enough and veteran enough that I think he's embracing that."
The offense is moving faster these days, but it's not exactly in a hurry, as Chryst suggested by using an eloquent comparison.
"It's like when you're driving down the street," the coach began, "you know when you're speeding and you know when you're not speeding. You don't always look down at the speedometer. So I think we're getting in and out of the huddle in such a way that we're not looking up at the clock. We're not speeding, but we're not stuck in rush-hour traffic either.
"We're not just fast for the sake of fast."
Chryst's main job is to help the 49ers rebound from its standing as the league's 20th-ranked total offense and 25th-ranked unit in points per game.
Helping Kaepernick continue to evolve is another prime reason why Chryst was elevated to his coordinator post.
Chryst's offensive system has seemingly been embraced by Kaepernick and San Francisco's growing list of play-makers.
"It's up to the guys in the huddle to get into the huddle and get out of the huddle," Chryst said. "I think they've done a great job with that. We have to give them a lot of credit."
The tempo, in some respects, starts and stops with Kaepernick. Under his watch, Chryst doesn't want to see a frantic or disorganized unit.
The OC also wants to see his quarterback use good judgement as he orchestrates the offense.
Kaepernick, with this new upbeat offense, could very well be conditioned to run more and showcase his speed. But that's not exactly the case, if you listen closely to Chryst's words to the media.
"I think Kap completely trusts his arm as much as his legs," the coach said. "Having a mobile quarterback is a great thing, but you still have to have discernment. "Will he run more or less? He'll say he's just competing. He's not really making a calculated decision. He's not thinking, 'Am I hitting more fastballs or curves?' He's just hitting the ball."