49ers need a next-level Alex Smith

It comes as no surprise that 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is being held to a much higher standard in 2012 after the performance he put on last season.

Smith — originally the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft — showed little sign of outstanding talent in the years to follow. Until 2011.

After a breakout season featuring 3,144 passing yards, a 61.4 percent completion percentage, and an impossibly low five interceptions, Smith has pushed the envelope and has people talking about the 49ers as possible Super Bowl champions.

And sure, some are predicting a paltry seven wins this season for the 49ers. But are we betting or bragging?

At least some credit goes to 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and the spirit he has injected back into Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005.

Smith told CSN Bay Area that proving himself through his actions on the field has helped to shape him as a leader on team:

“You can talk about it and be as rah-rah as you want, but if you don’t go out there and prove it, and prove it with your actions and the way you play, no one is going to believe you.”

Though Smith is the obvious starter, second-year backup Colin Kaepernick and newly-acquired Josh Johnson will be (im)patiently stalking the sideline for their opportunity to shine.

The obvious question now is: Who will take on the second-string quarterback position?

Kaepernick and Johnson — who trained together in the past under ‘quarterback guru‘ Roger Theder — are reunited in the same red and gold uniforms, fighting for the same position.

Kaepernick has intimidating arm strength, though Johnson shattered records under Harbaugh at the University of San Diego from 2004 to 2007, which could give him a debatable edge.

Johnson told CSN Bay Area the competition between the two had not affected their relationship, and that he is leaving it in the hands of the coaches to make the final decision on who gets the job:

“As a quarterback you control your own destiny, per se, because you go out there, you have the ball in your hands, and your running offense. … All you can do is make the best out of your situation and let the coaches decide on who plays and who does what.”