QB Competition Too Close to Call

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They're not making it any easier on the 49ers coaching staff to name a starting quarterback for the 2009 season.

Not by a long shot.

With each training camp practice, Shaun Hill and Alex Smith both look the part. Both signal callers look capable of leading the team and they've both shown an ability to make smart decisions and accurate throws.

Take Thursday afternoon's training camp practice as an example.

The two quarterbacks were given the opportunity to march down the field in a two-minute drill scenario and they both led their offenses into the end zone.

"As long as (the competition) is still open, I know we will both be out there competing and going hard," Hill said after Thursday's morning practice. "But even when it is decided, nothing is going to change. I know myself, I'm still going to go out there with the same approach every day, and that is to improve."

Smith also has a similar mindset on the competition. Friendship aside, Smith is focused on controlling what he can and leaving the decision-making to the coaching staff.

"I'm going out there to try to play the best I can," Smith said. "I'm trying to make this offense work to the best of its abilities. Any other things that go into that might just be the style of our play, but no it has nothing to do with us being friends. It wouldn't change if we didn't like each other. I'd still go out there and play just the same."

One thing the two can instantly agree on is their comfort level in offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye's scheme.

"I really feel like we are progressing well," Hill said. "I feel that we are further along now than we have been in previous training camps. The key now is to keep doing that and keep improving every day. We need to keep taking steps forward."

"I feel good about it," Smith said of Raye's offense. "We are still installing the offense in chunks. We're a little more cohesive now… I feel like we've come a long way."

Both quarterbacks also feel good about the weapons surrounding them.

When asked which players have stood out the most to him so far at camp, Hill replied without hesitation:

"There are a lot of them. I told Frank [Gore] this, but I don't know if I have ever seen Frank go like this. He is going. He is hitting the holes hard. He runs fast. As hard as he has been working, for him to still be out there looking that fast is pretty impressive."

Hill also threw tight end Vernon Davis and receivers Josh Morgan and Isaac Bruce into the same category as Gore as players who have looked great in camp.

"Vernon, the same thing. He is going hard. He is taking a heck of a lot of reps. He is doing well," Hill added. "Isaac [Bruce], of course, he is going to be what he has been his whole career. Josh [Morgan] looks good. All of the receivers look good. As you would expect, the more the quarterbacks and receivers get to work together, the better we are going to work. All of them are doing a great job. There are a ton of guys who are stepping up out here."

Smith directed his praise towards the players directly in front of him – the offensive linemen.

"This is one of the most physical camps that I've seen. I think our guys up front, especially on the offensive line have been extremely physical," he said. "It's been great to see. I think the physical toughness as well as the mental toughness has really stood out to me."

As head coach Mike Singletary continues to push the mental and physical toughness of his players at camp, the quarterbacks are also being tested on both counts.

"We aren't really doing the nutcrackers, but you still feel it," Smith said of the demands of Singletary's training camp.

But if the two were to engage in the "Nutcracker" drill, the outcome would be up in the air, just like their current competition to be named the 49ers starter.

"He's got the weight advantage for sure, but I don't know," Smith responded to being asked which signal caller would be victorious.

Whether it's in various drills or in 11-on-11 situations on the field, the quarterbacks won't make this decision an easy one.

PM Practice Particulars

Brandon Jones suffered a shoulder sprain and he will be evaluated overnight.

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