Veteran running back Frank Gore, who turned 31 this past May is being constantly pushed from behind by young running backs. This year, rookie Carlos Hyde, and change of pace back Kendall Hunter are nipping at the heels of Gore, not to mention the health of former fourth round pick Marcus Lattimore is at an all-time high. Gore should still see about 80% of the carries in San Francisco.
Hyde has been garnering the most attention throughout the offseason as a player who can receive the most playing time under Gore. This seems to be the truth, as Hyde certainly fits the bill with Jim Harbaugh’s power run scheme. Hyde is going to be used to give Gore a breather, as he can play the same role in the offense.
Kendall Hunter has been a reliable weapon in San Francisco, and clearly has the upper hand on all other backs in terms of experience and proven skill. Hunter’s production has been consistent in his three years in San Francisco, putting up an average of 400 yards and 2 touchdowns a year, while averaging 87 carries per season. It will be interesting to see if Harbaugh chooses to phase out Hunter, as he is in the final year of his rookie contract, or they chose to utilize him even more so, and extend him next season. The Oklahoma State product has been used as a nice compliment to Gore’s power downhill running, and will continue to do so in 2014.
When the 49er’s drafted Oregon superstar LaMichael James in the second round, fans had the hope that he would be the next explosive athlete in the NFL. While there is still certainly room for this achievement, it doesn’t look like it will be in San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh has in essence faded James out of the offensive plan. It seems likely that the Oregon product will request a trade while he is still young and able.
Marcus Lattimore was once considered the best running back in the 2013 NFL Draft class. After tearing just about every muscle in his knee, he dropped all the way to the fourth-round. There have been conflicting reports in and out of training camp that Lattimore is healthy. According to the Sacramento Bee, Lattimore looks "noticeably better and more explosive than he did two weeks ago." This isn’t saying much other than he is on track to be healthy on a never-ending timetable to return. Lattimore will probably only see about 5% of the carries in San Francisco, unless he plays exceptionally well in the preseason.