Frank Gore isn’t going anywhere. Marcus Lattimore is eager to contribute. And Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James have produced when they’ve been given their opportunities.
But during training camp and exhibition games, the two most interesting running backs to watch will be Lattimore and second-round pick Carlos Hyde of Ohio State.
Hyde, a 6-foot, 230-pounder who improved all four years for the Buckeyes, met with Bay Area media Thursday for the first time since draft day and said he’s looking forward to getting his opportunities with one of the best-running teams in the NFL. He also explained an earlier comment in which he described his running style as “violent.”
“I run with anger,” said Hyde, who noted that off the field he’s “a nice guy.” “I don’t shy away from contact. I’m a relentless runner, a guy who’s always scratching and clawing for those extra yards.”
He ran for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs as a senior, 970 yards and 16 TDs as a junior, 566 yards as a sophomore and 141 on just 24 carries as a freshman. He also had 37 career catches for four TDs.
Hyde also noted that he’s had plenty of experience as a pass protector, an area where Gore excels. Gore earns playing time not only because he’s a great ballcarrier and receiver, but also because he’s terrific at protecting his quarterback.
“That was a huge thing at Ohio State,” Hyde said. “If you can’t pass protect, there is a good chance you won’t play there. You have to learn it. I’ve done it a lot.”
Lattimore, meanwhile, is back on the field going through drills and running after rehabbing all his rookie season with a knee injury.
He knows there will be a battle for playing time, with Gore still going strong after another big season and Hyde added to the mix.
“I look at it like it’s competition,” Lattimore told Taylor Price of 49ers.com. “Competition brings out the best in you. It brings out the best in every player in the backfield. We’ve got a group of great guys and we all want the best for each other, but at the end of the day, we all want to play.”
Lattimore says his once-injured left knee is sound again, but he’s still not game-ready after so much time away from playing.
“It’s all the other muscles around the knee, getting used to the workload again and going full speed,” he told Price. “That’s what I have to get used to, going full-speed again and getting those instincts back that I’ve had. I’m taking it one day at a time. … The more I get into football shape, I feel like I’ll be fine.”