I don’t think people realize how good the San Francisco 49ers backfield is. Seriously. They get none of the love in the media, despite the rushing attack being the most vocal part of the offense. Sure, I love watching Colin Kaepernick run-and-gun, but if the Niners are going to make a real push in the Quest for Six, it’s the backfield that’s going to make it happen.
While not a running back, Bruce Miller is the guy who gets everything started. A former defensive end at the University of Central Florida, Miller made the transition over to fullback and has become a sensational lead blocker who can make a catch or two. While Will Tukuafu made an admirable attempt trying to fill in for Miller after his injury late in the season, there’s no doubting San Francisco missed their starter. Number 49 is without question one of the unsung heroes of the team.
Now, the guys who get the yards. There’s no better player to start with than the Inconvenient Truth, Frank Gore. In my opinion, he belongs in Canton and the 49ers should consider retiring the number 21 when he finally hangs up his cleats. Gore is the epitome of illusiveness, using terrific vision to outmaneuver the defense. Pair that with his ability to break tackles and it’s no wonder why he’s the franchise leader in rushing yards. This season, Gore will break the 10,000 yard rushing mark, becoming just the 29th player in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
His backups aren’t too shabby either. Kendall Hunter, the assumed number two heading into training camp, has been more than competent backing up Gore since the 49ers drafted him in 2011. A former two-time First Team All-American at Oklahoma State, Hunter joined a bloated San Francisco backfield and proved he could be a solid NFL rusher. Despite being an undersized 5’7, he has a career average of 4.5 yards per carry, gaining 1,202 yards on just 262 career attempts with 8 touchdowns.
With the 49ers actively shopping a disgruntled LaMichael James, the Faithful will likely get their first look at Marcus Lattimore this season. Lattimore’s road to recovery has been nothing short of amazing, overcoming two devastating knee injuries at the University of South Carolina to being drafted in the fourth round by the Niners. While he spent last season rehabbing his ACL, Lattimore was one of the nation’s most feared halfbacks during his time with the Gamecocks, winning the Sporting News Freshman of the Year honors in 2010, coupled with First Team All-SEC and Second Team All-American selections. If Lattimore can remain healthy, the 49ers may have pulled off the steal of last year’s draft.
With the NFL schedule set to be released tomorrow or Thursday, we aren’t sure who the 49ers will start this year against, but if they want their season to end with a Lombardi trophy, it’s the backfield that’ll get them there.
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