Competition for backup job places Tolzien under the pistol
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SANTA CLARA -- Scott Tolzien is competing for the most prominent backup role on the 49ers in virtual obscurity.

Colt McCoy, with 20 NFL starts on his resume during three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, was acquired in an offseason trade with the Cleveland Browns. He went through the entire offseason program penciled in as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback.

[RELATED: Harbaugh: McCoy fine, expected to play against Chiefs]

And rookie B.J. Daniels, a seventh-round draft pick, has turned a few heads with his strong arm, read-option prowess and his versatility. He has seen time at running back, wide receivers and in all aspects of special teams.

Meanwhile, Tolzien, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback the past two seasons, has quietly worked himself into position to win the right to serve as Colin Kaepernick's backup.

"Truly, it's meaningless," Tolzien said of the lack of attention he has received from the outside. "It's about focusing on myself. Since high school and college I've learned, you get a lot more out of the situation when you focus on yourself than when you pay attention to the depth chart."

Neither Tolzien nor McCoy has made a significant move to nail down the No. 2 job. Tolzien completed 15 of 26 passes for 158 yards in the 49ers' 10-6 loss to the Denver Broncos in the exhibition opener last week. McCoy also struggled, and left the game after one half with a stinger. He is back at full health and available for game action.

The 49ers scored just three points in Tolzien's eight drives, which included a D.J. Harper fumble, returned for a touchdown, and an interception.

[RELATED: 49ers-Broncos rewind: WR competition heats up]

Tolzien completed four passes for 39 yards in 26 seconds to set up a Phil Dawson field-goal attempt, which he missed from 44-yards out, at the end of the first half. He engineered a 73-yard drive which ended in Dawson's 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

"You always look at the negatives first and just try to minimize them, really," Tolzien said. "Bottom line, the coaches are looking for a consistent performer. And you got to do it every day. It's not good enough to do it one day. You got to do it every day. That's what I'm working on, the consistency."

Each of the four 49ers quarterbacks should get an opportunity to play Friday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said this week.

That means the competition continues for Tolzien, who has been battling for his professional football life since arriving on the scene with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted rookie in 2011.

Tolzien lost his first NFL competition with the Chargers, but was given new life when the 49ers claimed him off waivers. In Year 2, Tolzien got the nod for the No. 3 job over veteran Josh Johnson, who outplayed him during the exhibition games.

Harbaugh recently said Tolzien has benefitted from being through two competitive NFL training camps.

"I definitely say his skin is thicker, callus, built up," Harbaugh said. "He's in the fire of a new competition. I think it's a step in the direction of not just making the team but of contributing and competing to win, not just compete to make the team.

"Sometimes when you compete to make the team, the thought of not losing it creeps into your mind. I want to see that jump of competing to make the team, to win. Not competing not to make the mistake."

[MORE: 49ers training camp page]

Tolzien did not step onto the field for a regular-season game in his first two seasons. With the offseason trade to send Alex Smith to the Chiefs, the backup job became available. And Tolzien said he believes he is ready for the promotion.

"That's your job, to be ready," he said. "Saying you're ready is one thing, but you have to go out and prove it."

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Tolzien is unlike the other quarterbacks on the roster in one sense: He does not have experience running the read option. He has always been a pocket passer. Kaepernick, McCoy and Daniels (shown, right) all thrived in college with their legs, as well as their arms.

"You see what it does on game day for an offense and a team," Tolzien said. "There's no doubt that it's a successful scheme. I'm all for it and I've bought into that scheme. I've dabbled with it in the past, but not to this depth and extent."

His skill set is nothing like that of the 49ers' starter. Kaepernick is bigger and faster, and his arm is far stronger than Tolzien's. Yet, Tolzien said he can still lean on Kaepernick to pick up some of the nuances of the pistol formation and the quarterback-driven run game.

"I have a great resource in Colin," Tolzien said. "He's been doing it at Nevada. He's been doing it here. You get a lot out of just watching it and seeing him command the whole thing.

"You're exposed to it more and doing it more, so that tends to build your comfort level."