Hill To Start 49ers Preseason Opener

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Shaun Hill has nudged past Alex Smith to get the 49ers' first preseason start.

    49ers coach Mike Singletary has subjected his team to a rigorous, demanding regimen of "nutcracker" drills in training camp this year. But tonight, the 49ers finally get to crack someone elses nuts.

    San Francisco opens it's preseason tonight against the Denver Broncos with a 7 p.m. kickoff at The 'Stick. And Coach Singletary handed out the pole position in the quarterback battle on Thursday, naming Shaun Hill as his preseason game one starter. 

    And what are the tools Shaun Hill will have to work with when he and the first-team 49er offense take the field? Not his best ones. Matt Maiocco reports on his Press-Democrat blog that niether Frank Gore or Isaac Bruce will play tonight, though niether is particularly injured. Both figure to be preserving their bodies for the more important grind of the regular season.

    On the other side of the line of scrimmage, linebacker Patrick Willis will sit out tonight's proceedings with a mild ankle strain.

    The former franchise savior and current No. 2 on the depth chart, Alex Smith will likely see some time with some of the starters. Maybe. Some. Probably. "Alex will get work with the ones, to be fair," Coach Singletary told the Chronicle. But Samurai Mike is not employing a structured plan prescribing a certain number of plays or minutes for either quarterback. "We're going to get into the flow of the game and see where it goes," Singletary continued. "The flow of the game will determine how much (Shaun Hill) plays."

    And that "flow of the game" won't just determine how much Hill plays tonight. What we see on the field tonight could help determine how much starting quarterback he plays this coming regular season.

    Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who will sit out tonight's game with a sore achilles, a bag of chips, and a six-pack of whatever's on special at Safeway.