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49ers coach Harbaugh sees something in Smith others don't

Beauty often rests in the eye of the beholder, but new coach Jim Harbaugh apparently sees something in Alex Smith that 49ers fans have missed over the past six years.

On the surface, keeping Smith looks like a questionable move by a franchise looking to reach the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade. But a closer look suggests that Harbaugh might be on to something.

Harbaugh, who tutored the Buccaneers' Josh Johnson (at the University of San Diego) and current Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, has a strong reputation for maximizing the talents of his signal callers. Harbaugh's adaptable system will certainly accentuate Smith's athleticism and playmaking ability.

The 49ers' previous offensive coordinators attempted to turn Smith into a classic drop-back passer, but Harbaugh utilizes a varied passing game that features a mixture of drop-back movement and shotgun passes as the basis. He will also incorporate some of the spread principles that will allow Smith (and rookie Colin Kaepernick) to take advantage of quick, high-percentage throws from the pocket.

Smith has been at his best when operating extensively from the shotgun, so the incorporation of some spread offensive tactics should help his performance.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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