Sports

49ers hoping receivers can catch on fast

As part of his rookie orientation, San Francisco 49ers receiver Josh Morgan visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the summer.

It was great fun. But Morgan didn't need to go all that way to see a bit of NFL history. He merely needed to walk across the locker room.

"I talk to Isaac Bruce all the time," Morgan said after practice Sunday. "If Isaac Bruce is standing beside you, you're definitely going to ask him questions."

Bruce is the most accomplished receiver on the 49ers' roster by a mile. Actually, by 6 miles (he's 10,557 yards ahead of the closest receiver, Ashley Lelie).

The question now is which of the 49ers' young upstarts -- Morgan included -- is going to join Bruce on the active roster out of training camp.

Coach Mike Nolan pushed open the door for competition Sunday when he said it would be "reasonable" to keep five receivers, possibly six, when final cuts are announced Aug. 30.

Nolan identified Bruce, Arnaz Battle and Bryant Johnson as his core group. That leaves two or three spots up for grabs among the remaining seven receivers on the training-camp roster.

The competition is so stiff that Nolan suggested it would be in Lelie's best interest to heal up quickly from a calf problem that kept him off the field again Sunday.

"(The injury) obviously gives someone else the opportunity to take some of those reps," Nolan said. "It would be important for Lelie to get back."

The 49ers are desperate for someone to emerge. The team has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens in 2003 and has been disappointed since by the likes of Brandon Lloyd, Rashaun Woods, Antonio Bryant and Darrell Jackson.

The 6-foot, 219-pound Morgan seems to be making the most of camp. The sixth-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech hauled in a 50-yard pass from Shaun Hill during seven-on-seven drills Sunday, highlighting the morning practice session.

Morgan also has been a frequent target for Alex Smith.

"He's caught a lot of balls, so he has made a good impression," Nolan said. "It would be nice if he factors in, because he's certainly done a very nice job for three days and five practices."

Over the summer, Morgan and the rest of the 49ers' draft class roamed the exhibits of the Hall of Fame with the help of an expert tour guide: former San Francisco linebacker Dave Wilcox, who not only talked about the Hall but also gave the youngsters some advice on how to earn permanent residence there.

Morgan, who kept a video diary of the trip, called it "very inspiring." He might need such inspiration to fend off his fellow challengers for a roster spot. A look at the other top candidates:

Jason Hill (6-0, 202). While at Washington State two years ago, he was voted the hardest receiver to cover in a survey of Pac-10 defensive backs.

Lelie (6-3, 193). He managed just 10 catches for 115 yards (47 of them on one play) last season.

Dominique Zeigler (6-3, 185). He spent last season on the 49ers' practice squad.

Robert Jordan (5-11, 170). The rookie free agent finished his Cal career ranked seventh on the school's all-time list for receptions (156).

Cam Colvin (6-2, 205). The rookie free agent was on track for a solid senior year at Oregon last season before suffering a season-ending injury in Game 7.

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