SANTA CLARA -- There was little doubt when the 49ers acquired quarterback Colt McCoy in March that he would be Colin Kaepernick's backup.
And as the 49ers' offseason program draws to a close next week, McCoy has strengthened his hold on the No. 2 job. McCoy leans heavily on Kaepernick as he learns the offense, and he hopes to return the favor throughout the course of the season.
"In my role, I'd love to help him in any way I can," McCoy said. "We communicate on the field. He's smart in what we're doing. He understands the system, the run game, the pass game.
"This is a game-plan specific offense, but during practice, there are things that come up. 'Hey, Kap, what do we got here? What did you see there? What's the coverage?' Different things. He's been very helpful. He's an amazing athlete. He's fast, strong. It's a time for all of us to get better, and Kap is doing a great job."
McCoy, 26, is entering his fourth NFL season after being a four-year starter at Texas and 2008 runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He started 21 games his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, including eight as a rookie under coach Eric Mangini, hired this week as 49ers offensive consultant. Last season, McCoy saw action in just three games with no starts as Brandon Weeden's backup.
"My goal, my focus right now, is to learn the system," McCoy said. "What are we trying to do? Run game, pass game, offensively. So that's my approach. I feel like I'm doing well with the twos. It's going well, but still I have a lot for improvement.
"There are good things and bad things at practice every day. I just have to continue to learn. Kap is helping a lot, being able to watch him do the quarterback-driven run game stuff, that's a little bit new. And the pass game is coming along. I really have to continue to stay focused. I'm a competitor, so when we're out at practice, I want it to work."
So far, things are working well for McCoy on the practice field as the clear-cut No. 2 quarterback ahead of Scott Tolzien and rookie B.J. Daniels.
McCoy had, perhaps, the three best throws during practice Tuesday. He hit tight end Garrett Celek on a deep seam route against linebacker Michael Wilhoite, connected with Vernon Davis on a 45-yard pass against safety Darcel McBath, and hooked up with undrafted rookie Chuck Jacobs deep after cornerback Perrish Cox fell.
"He's doing very well, picking up the system," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "And (he is) a guy that is really serious and focused on being good and doing a good job. He's got a lot of things that motivate him to work hard. And he's worked extra hard, too. He's doing well."
McCoy said the challenge in coming to the 49ers is that the playbook is so varied. A "game-plan specific offense," as McCoy referred to it, means the 49ers' offense is able to adapt on a week-to-week basis depending on the opposition's weaknesses.
"Every day I try to approach it as a game," McCoy said. "The reps I get, what am I going to do here. I really have to focus, making the calls, the checks. If we're reading a book, we're at the end of the book. The offense, we're installing, we're putting in new plays every day. Every day presents a unique challenge for me. (I'm) just really trying to soak it all in and compete when I'm at practice and then come back in here and study hard and get ready for tomorrow."
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree is expected to be out for most of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon on May 22. Veteran Anquan Boldin was absent from practice on Tuesday. None of the young receivers have created any separation in the competition for the playing time. But there was certainly one pass target who stood out.
"Vernon is fast," McCoy said. "He is definitely a weapon on offense that we can use in a lot of different ways. I can't say I've ever played with anybody like that. So when he's out on the field, in your reads and your progressions, in the back of your mind, you always know where Vernon is because he's definitely a playmaker."
McCoy said the adjustment to a new team and a new system in a new environment has been a challenge, but he enjoys being around players who worked hard each day at their craft.
"Each day is a new game," he said. "We're installing, we're putting in stuff. They're putting a lot on my plate, just seeing what I can handle. So just have to continue to keep grinding, keep working. It's a mental challenge every day. But I feel confident we're on the right track."