49ers training camp preview: Running backs

49ers training camp preview: Running backs
July 18, 2014, 12:45 pm
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Hyde and Lattimore will have to prove their worth in pass protection in order to take the backup job away from Hunter.
Matt Maiocco

Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp. The full squad will report on July 23, with the first practice day scheduled for July 24. This afternoon, Matt focuses on the running backs.

Who they have: Frank Gore, Bruce Miller, Kendall Hunter, Carlos Hyde, Marcus Lattimore, LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton, Will Tukuafu, Trey Millard.

Who they lost: Anthony Dixon.

Looking back: Gore turned 30, but the 49ers did not turn the page on the man who first earned the job as the team’s featured back in 2006. In fact, it was just the opposite.

Gore played more than 75 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps during the regular season. He rushed for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns, but he was equally valuable to the 49ers as a blocker in passing situations. That’s why he rarely came off the field.

Gore’s playing time rose in each of Jim Harbaugh’s first three seasons as head coach. Backup Kendall Hunter played just 19.17 percent of the time last season as he returned from a torn Achilles from the previous season. Hunter gained 358 yards with a solid 4.5-yard average.

[RELATED: Don't count out a particular 49ers running back]

Dixon played 80 snaps the entire season, mostly as a short-yardage option or when the 49ers were comfortably ahead. Meanwhile, LaMichael James saw just 28 total snaps on offense on the season, and has yet to earn any significant role on offense.

Miller had an outstanding season at the fullback position before sustaining a broken shoulder blade late in the year.

Overall outlook: The 49ers have good depth, and might finally start to use multiple running backs. Hyde was chosen in the second round of the draft, which provides a clear indication that they believe he is capable of eventually taking over for Gore. Lattimore will get plenty of opportunities to prove he is back from a severe knee injury he sustained during his final season at South Carolina. Lattimore was placed on the non-football injury list upon reporting to camp, but that is not an indication of any setback. It's merely a procedural move, and Lattimore is expected to be on the field when the team begins full-squad practices after the veterans report.

[RELATED: Lattimore among eight 49ers on NFI or PUP lists]

Camp competition: Coming off what both Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke described as an “A-plus-plus” season, Gore appears to be solid in his standing as the starter. After that, the depth chart will be sorted out through competition in training camp. Hyde and Lattimore will have to prove their worth in pass protection in order to take the backup job away from Hunter. If everyone remains healthy in training camp, the 49ers could look to trade a running back just before the final round of cuts.

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