Why 49ers receivers coach sees good, bad in Aiyuk, Jennings‘ OTAs absence

Why 49ers receivers coach sees good, bad in Aiyuk, Jennings‘ OTAs absence originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SANTA CLARA — The absence of Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings at OTAs is viewed as both a good and bad thing by 49ers receivers coach Leonard Hankerson.

Without two of the team’s top three receivers on the field, first-round draft pick Ricky Pearsall is getting a higher number of valuable reps that might be more limited if Aiyuk and Jennings were present.

“It’s awesome,” Hankerson said. “Both good and bad I would say. Reason why is it’s good for Ricky is because he’s getting a ton of reps, but also bad, because that’s two guys who know how we do things, know how it’s done the right way.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan asks a lot from wideouts in his system — not only getting separation while catching the ball but responsibilities in run blocking as well. Watching veterans who have been in the system for multiple seasons is important for rookies like Pearsall, Jacob Cowing and Terique Owens.

“[Pearsall] is not able to see those guys do it, so that’s an added rep that he’s not able to learn,” Hankerson said. “The reps help a lot. The more we rep things with him, with Jake, with Terique, with any of the guys, the better they will be at it.”

Still, the wide receivers coach has been happy with the new members of his group — notably Pearsall, who has come in ready to roll.

“Ricky has done an amazing job, thus far,” Hankerson said. “Coming out initially, you could tell on film right away that he had that added development to himself with his personality, just talking to him and what we saw on film. He’s a little more polished than the normal college receiver.”

Hankerson also reported that from the moment rookies were allowed to report, Pearsall has been a constant presence at the facility, often arriving even before his position coach. The first-round pick also has been seen getting extra work on the field with Brock Purdy and the rest of the quarterback group after practice has ended.

“I’m enjoying where he’s at,” Hankerson said. “I’m enjoying working with him and like the mentality he came in with, ready to work. I’m excited going forward that I can get my hands on him and we can start to develop a good player.”

Hankerson emphasized that there is a lot to learn as a rookie wide receiver in Shanahan’s offense, and the more intricately the rookies understand the playbook, the faster they will be able to play.

The position coach believes that while there will be a clear learning curve for Pearsall, the rookie already is a step ahead due to his extensive college experience and physical abilities. Hankerson has been impressed since he first saw the Florida product’s college film.

“His mentality to catch the rock,” Hankerson said. “First thing I always look for is the toughness, which he made plenty of catches over the middle of the field, as well as his ability to separate.

“He’s a polished receiver that I’m going to continue to develop, but he already has that ‘it’ factor and he’s only going to continue to get better.”

The 49ers next OTA practice that will be open to the media will be May 29, and all eyes again will be on the first round pick.

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