SANTA CLARA — B.J. Daniels' NFL preseason debut at quarterback has forced the San Francisco 49ers to alter their plans a bit.
The former South Florida star was impressive while directing the winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter of San Francisco's 15-13 victory at Kansas City on Friday night — the 49ers' only touchdown in two preseason games.
That performance has bought Daniels more time and a more serious look at quarterback after the team experimented with the seventh-round draft pick at other positions and on special teams during training camp this summer.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said Sunday that the backup snaps in practice this week behind starter Colin Kaepernick will be evenly distributed between Daniels and veterans Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien, both of whom have struggled so far in the preseason.
Daniels stepped up when finally given an opportunity at quarterback late in the third quarter against the Chiefs. His only previous action had been a few snaps at wide receiver near the finish of San Francisco's opener against Denver on Aug. 8.
"Going into what he did the other night, it was very positive," Harbaugh said Sunday after the 49ers returned to practice. "It was an encouraging performance, and he's done some encouraging things in practice as well. So, he continues on his process and he competed well and made plays. And when somebody does a good job, you give them a little more."
The 49ers have yet to establish who will be Kaepernick's backup this year after the team traded veteran Alex Smith to Kansas City in March.
San Francisco acquired McCoy from the Cleveland Browns in April, then drafted Daniels later that month to join the competition with Tolzien, San Francisco's No. 3 quarterback behind Kaepernick and Smith the past two seasons.
McCoy and Tolzien received most of the backup snaps throughout training camp as the 49ers gave the versatile Daniels a look at receiver and running back, among other positions. Daniels finished his career at South Florida third in Big East history with 10,501 yards of total offense, including 2,068 yards rushing.
Neither McCoy nor Tolzien performed well in San Francisco's first two exhibitions. McCoy threw an interception in each game, completed just 46 percent of his passes and has a preseason passer rating of 25.3. Tolzien, who has thrown 21 more preseason passes than any other quarterback, has completed 53 percent of his throws and has a passer rating of 57.0.
Daniels didn't follow that trend against the Chiefs. He displayed a strong arm and quick feet while leading the 49ers with 72 yards passing and rushing for 13 yards.
He also displayed poise in the pocket while guiding the 49ers 90 yards on 13 plays to the winning touchdown. Daniels completed all six of his passes during the drive, threading a perfect spiral to Chuck Jacobs in the corner of the end zone to cover the final 14 yards.
That left Daniels with a 128.0 passer rating for the night.
"I'm growing every day," Daniels said.
"There was something that they saw that they liked, so really I'm just trying to continue and improve and get better."
Daniels has thrown himself into the mix for the backup role behind Kaepernick, who has played just two series during the preseason. Kaepernick has been a standout in practice throughout the summer, and the 49ers don't feel they need to see much from him until the real games begin. It's a different situation behind him.