With all of the acquisitions the 49ers made during the off season to stack the offense, one has to wonder what is in store for the running back position. If this were a college team, no one would question it. The running back by committee style of offense is prevalent in many college schemes across the country. Although Coach Harbaugh was previously the Stanford head coach, he still utilized one primary back, and Toby Gerhart was the lone shining star. So what’s his deal? (That was for the USC fans)
It is pretty safe to say that Frank Gore will be a major contributor once again in 2012. Last season was a nice comeback year for him with 282 carries, his second highest career total. Only in his second season in the league did he carry the ball more, with 312 attempts. He also returned to delivering another 1,000 plus yard season rushing after missing the mark the previous year due to injury. As long as he stays healthy, he will be the “go to” back.
Gore’s injuries in 2010 may have spurred the Niners into drafting Kendall Hunter, the second year rookie out of Oklahoma State. He had a nice intro season with over 100 carries, averaging four yards per carry and a pair of touchdowns. He is quick and agile but at 5’7 and just under 200, he isn’t the goal line bruiser that the Niner red zone offense is obviously lacking. If it wasn’t for David Akers in 2011, the Niners would not have had a post season.
In walks Brandon Jacobs. At 6’4 and 264 lbs., he HAS to be what the Niners need on the goal line. Brandon, please, please, please be that guy! He reportedly wants to start the season under 260 for the first time in his professional career. Leaner, stronger faster seems to be his mission during the offseason. Sounds like a perfect fit. Jacobs was in the same draft class as Gore but has had only two 1000+ yard seasons and touched ball less, yet he has 56 career TDs vs. Gore’s 43.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Niner’s second pick in the draft was RB LaMichael James out of Oregon. I actually laughed to myself during the draft, “How many running backs do we need?” Apparently at least one more. James obviously left an indelible mark on Harbaugh, running through the Stanford D while handing him his final collegiate loss as a head coach. At 5’8 and 195 he is very similar to Hunter, and also quite explosive on the field. Not that anyone is guaranteed a roster spot, but being drafted in the second round doesn’t put you on the practice squad either.
Anthony Dixon is the only other RB returning from last season. He is in his third year and might need to contribute in more ways than just as a running back to keep his roster spot. Rookies Cameron Bell and Jewel Hampton are also on the roster for now.
Still want more? Will Tukuafu the second year DT out of Oregon was apparently filling in at fullback this week during OTAs. He is listed at 6’3, 295. These kinds of shenanigans are not unheard of with Harbaugh. NT Isaac Sopoaga has been there and done that. Bruce Miller is the solid FB position holder and Brock Cartwright was brought in as a back up, but Harbaugh will most undoubtedly keep us guessing. All I can say is, is it preseaon yet?