So far, so good.
It might be a while before the 49ers know what former Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is capable of producing as a rookie. But at this point, coach Kyle Shanahan sees only reasons for optimism.
“I thought he did a pretty good job today,” Shanahan said of Aiyuk following the 49ers’ first practice of training camp.
“We’ll see when we go watch the film, but I’ve been real impressed with him, just being around him. He was very impressive on the Zoom meetings, just his attention to detail.”
Aiyuk did not catch any passes on the 49ers’ dozen pass attempts during their 11-on-11 sessions on Saturday. But he made a couple of catches during a 7-on-7 drill. He caught an underneath pass from Jimmy Garoppolo, and two plays later, he had a nice toe-tap at the sideline on Nick Mullens throw.
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The 49ers had Aiyuk as one of their top-rated receivers in the draft -- perhaps behind only Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb. The 49ers traded up from No. 31 to select Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick.
Aiyuk faces the same difficulty as all rookies this season, after offseason programs around the NFL were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shanahan said he is pleasantly surprised at how prepared Aiyuk was upon reporting to training camp.
“Since we’ve gotten here, going through these walk-throughs, he knows how to practice like a pro,” Shanahan said. “You can tell he comes prepared every day. He’s not a guy you’ve had to teach how to act or teach how important it is to learn this stuff. You can tell he understood that before he got here.
“Since we’ve been around him, you can tell he’s been working. That’s why he’s further ahead than a lot of rookies would be at this time.”
The 49ers like Aiyuk’s versatility. He has the skill set to line up at all the different receiver positions, as he did going back to his time at Sierra College before transferring to Arizona State.
As a senior, Aiyuk averaged 31.9 yards on 14 kickoff returns. On punt returns, he averaged 16.1 yards with one touchdown on 14 attempts.
Aiyuk, Tavon Austin, J.J. Nelson, Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor were among the 49ers who lined up to return punts during practice on Saturday. Aiyuk struggled more than the others and was seen muffing three punts from the JUGS machine.