SANTA CLARA (AP) — Despite being 27 years old, Torrey Smith qualifies as the elder statesman of the 49ers wide receiving group.
If there was any doubt two of Smith’s younger teammates — both wide receivers — gave him a reminder Wednesday as they needled him about being “old” after Smith made a catch Wednesday during San Francisco’s mandatory minicamp.
Like an older brother or wise uncle, Smith took it all in with a smile and a shrug. He took a few minutes to get a sports drink on the sideline, then grabbed his helmet and jogged back into the huddle before making a series of stellar catches during a 7-on-7 drill.
Old? No, Smith is just getting started and his relishing his role as mentor to the 49ers younger receivers.
“Just little pointers, kind of the obvious things,” Smith said. “It’s easy for us to get in bad habits, myself included, so it’s just about trying to be as consistent as possible. That’s all technique-based so if you just continue to work on that, everything else will come.”
Smith is determined to live up to that statement after a dismal season a year ago when he caught just 33 passes — the fewest of his six-year career — despite averaging more than 20 yards a reception.
Part of problems stemmed from the situation that San Francisco had at quarterback and with the offense in general. The 49ers were last in the NFL in scoring in 2015, 31st in total offense and 29th in passing.
The quarterback issues still remain mostly unresolved. Blaine Gabbert has taken all of the reps with the 49ers starters during the offseason while Colin Kaepernick, the starter the previous three seasons, was only recently cleared for individual drills following a series of surgeries.
Entering his seventh season, Smith will be San Francisco’s go-to guy in the passing game. That was a job formerly held by free agent Anquan Boldin, whose contract with the 49ers expired after last season.
Mostly seen as a downfield threat, Smith will be asked to do a little bit of everything in new coach Chip Kelly’s offense. During 7-on-7 drills, he had to spin to catch a short pass thrown behind him by Kaepernick. Smith later made a sliding touchdown reception in the end zone on a deep throw from Gabbert.
All in a day’s work that included Smith spending time talking and tutoring some of the team’s younger receivers.
“It’s definitely my responsibility to have the leadership role,” Smith said. “Whether it’s leading by example, talking or being vocal, that’s just how I am as a person in general.
“They’re all great listeners and they’re eager to learn. It’s easy when you have a bunch of guys (with) no egos. Everyone wants to go out there and compete and everyone knows there’s an opportunity for them.”
Notes: Running back Carlos Hyde took the field briefly as a punt returner during the special teams session, but called it quits and went to the sideline after whiffing on one attempt. ... Rookie quarterback Jeff Driskell is doing whatever it takes to get noticed this offseason, including playing on the punt coverage teams.
Driskell is competing with Thad Lewis for the No. 3 quarterback job behind Gabbert and Kaepernick.