Coming out of college, there were many questions revolving around Colin Kaepernick and his abilities as an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Some were worried about his lack of refined passing skills, while others agreed that his insane numbers were products of the option-focused Pistol offense that University of Nevada ran. Kaepernick made his mark with his feet, but still found ways to make defenses pay with his arm. He was the ultimate dual-threat quarterback, yet few believed that he could be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
I, however, saw potential. The kid had an arm and the elusiveness that few players – let alone quarterbacks – had ever shown. He helped Nevada turn into a relevant college football program and did it with more swagger than you’d expect from an unheralded quarterback. He broke NCAA records with lethal combination of a strong arm and elite running, becoming the only quarterback in Division 1 history to pass for over 10,000 yards and run for over 4,000 yards in a career.
The San Francisco 49ers were also believers, picking the über-athletic quarterback in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Although Kaepernick was considered an option to unseat Alex Smith as the 49ers’ starter during his rookie season, head coach Jim Harbaugh brought out the best in the former No. 1 overall pick as San Francisco came within one game of the Super Bowl. Smith’s sudden success forced the Nevada product to watch the entire season unfold with a clipboard in his hands.
This season could end on a different note, though, as Kaepernick took the most of his opportunities when Smith went down with a concussion. In only two games, the former Wolf Pack passer has led the 49ers to a hard-fought tie and a decisive victory while amassing 360 yards, two touchdowns and a 67 completion percentage. He has also racked up 187 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries in 2012. His passing numbers haven’t been phenomenal, but the unwavering confidence and leadership that he has displayed have the 49ers thinking that he could be a permanent fixture under center.
The only reservation at this point is that Kaepernick is unproven, having only played in 10 games so far during his short NFL career. When he has seen significant snaps, though, the second-year sparkplug has done nothing but impress. He caught the 49ers when Smith fell against the St. Louis Rams and helped San Francisco put the Chicago Bears to shame. All the while, he’s shown the confidence that you simply don’t see from a quarterback as inexperienced as Kaepernick.
With Smith still recovering from his concussion, Kaepernick is likely to start this weekend when the 49ers take on the New Orleans Saints. If he can come away victorious and do it in impressive fashion, the young gunslinger could cement himself as the starter for the rest of the 2012 campaign. Assuming that happens, Kaepernick could be on the path to finding a spot as the next great quarterback in a long line of Hall-of-Fame 49er passers.
Kaepernick is the NFL reincarnation of Randall Cunningham with an extra helping of athleticism. The 49ers better take advantage while they can and move on from the quarterback that everyone had given up on only two years ago.