49ers coordinator: Crabtree ran two routes in college

Michael Crabtree will start his NFL career as a slot receiver, according to San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.

That’s the fastest way for the Niners to get the first-round draft pick on the field, and one NFL personnel man said he liked the idea of forcing opposing defenses to cover tight end Vernon Davis with a safety on one side and then matching up Crabtree on the other side with another defender to work the middle of the field.

But it will be a steep learning curve for Crabtree, who by Raye’s estimations ran two routes in the wide open scheme he played in at Texas Tech.

“He basically played on one side in college, didn’t flip, stayed on the one side and he ran a hitch, and if he was pressed, he ran a go,’’ Raye said. “So, it’s a little bit more learning that he has to do than time will allow us to teach him, but we’ve got to make do as we can.”

Sounds like there will be a lot to teach, but the move may have been a sound one for Crabtree. He earned $2 million for each game he sat out as the package he receiver from the 49ers is worth $8 million more than what they offered before the season. Ultimately, Raye sees him as a split end, but it’s going to take time and he’s not in Lubbock, Texas, playing catch with Graham Harrell any longer. The club doesn’t know exactly what kind of shape Crabtree is in, and he didn’t really do anything in the way of football work with the Niners in the spring because of the stress fracture in his foot. He’s as raw as it gets for them, and the team has a roster exemption for just one game from commissioner Roger Goodell.

“We’re going to try to get him started, but the biggest thing is that he as no carryover background from being here before because he wasn’t able to do anything because of the injury,’’ Raye said. “So, we’re trying to get him caught up in the system, the words and the verbiage and give him a chance to get his legs underneath him. He’s a little wobbly. You’ve got to remember, he hasn’t played football since last November or December. He hasn’t done anything relative to football, so he’s not in that kind of shape. So, we have a conditioning thing we have to be concerned with, not take him too fast and get a setback.

“If we can avoid that and we’ll start him off at either one of the wide receiver spots, not sure exactly right now which one that will be, but I know system-wise, the split receiver is the less complicated because of the shifts and the motions, it’s the one that has less learning. We may start him there, but basically, my hope is we will start him in the three-wide package. He will play in the slot, and that will be the focal point of getting him into the game as quickly as we can, and then that would be a game-plan situation because he would then learn the plays and the game plan and wouldn’t have to be responsible for the entire offense, things that he would be short on.”

For now, Crabtree’s assimilation to the league begins with the scout team. He ought to be able to pick up a third route there pretty quickly.

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