Could 49ers have a 1-2-3 punch at running back in 2015?

It’s no secret what the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive philosophy will center around in 2015.

At his introductory press conference, new head coach Jim Tomsula alluded to it, and when he fumbled over his words, general manager Trent Baalke made it very clear. 

“I think somewhere in there, he says we’re going to run the football,” said Baalke.

After a season in which the offense seemed to struggle with it’s identity at times, you can rest assured they won’t have that problem moving forward. The 49ers will once again be a power running, physical offense that relies on pounding the ball.

With so much emphasis put on the ground game, it’s not out of the question that the team could use a three-headed attack at running back.

The pieces should be well known at this point, although how and where they fit is yet to be determined.

The most obvious name is Frank Gore, who at the moment is not under contract with the 49ers. Gore, who will be 32 this upcoming season, is set to be a free agent for the first time in his career.

Despite his advanced age, Gore played well for much of 2014, finishing ninth in the NFL with 1,106 yards on the ground. He saved his best for last, gaining 302 yards over the final two games.

Baalke has said that he’d like to bring Gore back on a short-term deal, and there’s a good possibility the interest will be mutual on both sides.

Even though Gore has appeared ageless, he has to slow down at some point, and while he’s still a fine name to pencil in as your starter, it would behoove the 49ers to make sure he stays fresh throughout the season.

That’s where Carlos Hyde and Kendall Hunter come in.

Hyde showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie campaign, although he wasn’t as consistent as one would hope (that could have had more to do with the offense as a whole). Overall, he carried the ball 83 times for 333 yards (4.0 average) and four touchdowns.

Hunter missed all of last season with a knee injury, and the 49ers have to hope he’s back to 100 percent when he steps back on the field. Hunter has quietly been very productive for San Francisco, averaging 4.6 yards a carry from 2011-2013. He’s had 262 carries over that span for 1,202 yards and seven touchdowns.

With the names above in the fold, there are two likely scenarios that could play out here:

The first is that the 49ers resign Gore and the team installs a time share in which all three backs see action. Gore would still see more than half of the carries, and Hyde and Hunter would split what’s left. Who sees more action could depend on the match-ups and situations. For example, the 49ers often went to Hyde near the goal line last season, and that trend is likely to continue.

The second scenario would revolve around Gore leaving and Hyde and Hunter taking over in some kind of a time share. Hyde would appear to have a leg up on Hunter, but a 60-40 split is something that could make sense.

Obviously, Gore is the main cog here and how his situation plays out will have everything to do with which direction San Francisco goes. Either way, get ready to see the 49ers hand the ball off in 2015…a lot.

Photo: Cary Edmondson- USA TODAY Sports



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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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