Kyle Shanahan

Why Shanahan's offense ‘hard' for 49ers rookie TEs to pick up

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Training camp for many NFL players is a time to prove they belong and are worthy of a roster spot.

But for 49ers backup tight ends, particularly the rookies, that comes with a few challenges.

"I think it's hard," coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after Thursday's practice. "I mean we got, everyone knows George [Kittle], and then when you look at Charlie [Woerner] and [Ross] Dwelley, they're consistent with what they do and they've been here for so long.

"And the tight ends, we ask our tight ends probably to do more than any other position because how involved they're in the run game and the pass game. And those guys are getting thrown in it big. We just finished really our whole install and hopefully, it slows down a little bit for both of them as we get going here."

San Francisco added tight end depth by selecting Cameron Latu (No. 101) and Brayden Willis (No. 247) in the 2023 NFL Draft four months ago.

Latu, a 6-foot-4, 242-pound tight end from The University of Alabama, registered 56 receptions for 787 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns during his time with the Crimson Tide. After being drafted by the 49ers, Latu said he was excited to work closely with Kittle, someone he always watches and tries to model his game after.

Willis, a 6-foot-3, 242-pound tight end from The University of Oklahoma, is known for his blocking skills, but his numbers show he's got some fuel in his tank as a pass catcher. Willis racked up 39 receptions for 514 receiving yards in his final season as a Sooner.

He also led his team in receiving touchdowns (seven), earning him Second Team All-Big 12 honors while also serving as a team captain.

Of course, the 49ers drafted the young tight ends for a reason, but Shanahan understands how in his specific offense, it can be difficult for the rookies to learn and adapt right away.

"Yeah, I believe so," Shanahan replied when asked if it's difficult to give rookie tight ends reps. "I mean just one, we got some depth at it, but I mean they're getting the reps but it's just all the stuff that takes a while to do. You can show up in one-on-ones and things like that, but we're trying to get them to play in our offense and learn how.

"It's hard to go out there as a tight end in the pass game, if you can't contribute in the run game. And so, you’ve got to work at both just as much. And those guys don't get a lot of that in college football."

Even if the rooks aren't getting as many reps as they'd like, at the very least they can observe one of the game's best and takes notes from the sidelines.

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