49ers quarterback Alex Smith will face his old coach Mike Nolan Friday night, which is about as tasty a preseason opening game storyline as you will find.
Smith will have to show Nolan what could have been, however, while coming off the bench. Shaun Hill has been given the starting assignment.
Calling on Hill isn’t surprising, and it doesn’t mean much in the long run. Smith will also get snaps behind the first-team offensive line and seems likely to start San Francisco’s second preseason contest.
The quarterback battle in San Francisco remains tight by all accounts, although Smith may have to win by a knockout during the preseason to get the call in Week One.
Nolan, meanwhile, is debuting as Broncos defensive coordinator. It will be interesting to watch what kind of defense he throws at his former charges, especially Smith, who he had a tumultuous history with.
Nolan was accused last year of cooking up more preseason blitzes than normal when he faced Aaron Rodgers because he passed on Rodgers in the 2005 Draft for Smith.
If Smith is ever going to prove that Nolan was right to select him five years ago, he’s going to have to start somewhere. This preseason could be his last, best chance.