49ers offseason: Will Marcus Lattimore be an impact player in 2014?

There is no denying Marcus Lattimore‘s talent.

Before he was injured in 2012, Lattimore scored 11 rushing touchdowns on just 143 carries for the South Carolina Gamecocks. That’s a touchdown once every 13 times he was handed the football. For his career, he scored 38 touchdowns and gained 2,677 yards on the ground over 3 collegiate seasons.

However, despite the success, the only season that was not cut short by injury was his freshman campaign in 2010.

That is where is the question lies with Lattimore. After, two major knee injuries and sitting out 2013, it’s unknown if the running back will be able to stay on the field and, if so, still be a productive player.

The 49ers were in the fortunate position of being able to take a chance on Lattimore because of their deep stable of running backs. They selected him the fourth round of the 2013 draft, knowing that his rookie season would be a like “red shirt” year. He did not play in a game, rehabbed his knee and watched from a far as San Francisco made another deep run in the playoffs.

Lattimore will be in the mix for carries in 2014, but make no mistake about that fact that this is still Frank Gore‘s job. At 31, Gore will be slotted to get the bulk of the carries, but will be limited at times in order to keep him fresh.

Gore has averaged 17.6, 16.1, and 17.2 carries in three season under Jim Harbaugh. That number could decrease by more than two totes a game as they work in Lattimore and Kendall Hunter in order to keep Gore fresh.

Unless an injury occurs, expect Lattimore’s impact to be minimal in 2014. He will be broken in slowly in a reserve role in which he sees a limited number of touches a game. A realistic range might be three to four a week.

Given his age, it’s unlikely that Gore will return to the 49ers after his contract expires following this up coming season. Lattimore could be seen as the eventual heir apparent to Gore in 2015, or at the very least be in a time share with another back (possibly Hunter).

Lattimore’s impact in 2014 may be small, but his place on the roster is not insignificant. The 49ers are looking at him for the long haul.

Photo: Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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