When the 49ers drafted South Carolina running back Mike Davis in the fourth round of the recent NFL draft, it created a crowded backfield.
Davis joins Carlos Hyde, Kendall Hunter and Reggie Bush in the competition for 2015 carries.
But Davis, by all reports, is no ordinary rookie.
The three-year starter for the Gamecocks was a complete, three-down back in the pro-style system of head coach Steve Spurrier and is not only a terrific ballcarrier but also a skilled receiver and effective pass blocker.
When Davis, who just signed with the 49ers, joins the team for the start of rookie minicamp this Saturday, he’ll give coaches and teammates their first glimpse of his wide-ranging skills.
At 5-foot-9 and 223 pounds, Davis in many ways appears similar to Frank Gore, the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, who recently departed as a free agent. Gore, also 5-foot-9, weighs 215 pounds and was a third-round choice of San Francisco in 2005 out of Miami.
One of many reasons the 49ers loved Gore was for his multiple skills. As a pass blocker, Gore was perhaps among the best in the NFL.
Now that skill might also vault Davis into playing time as a rookie, says Matt Barrows, who covers the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee.
Barrows wrote this week that he believes Davis will get plenty of snaps in preseason games – and could be the team’s leading rusher in the summer – not only because the team wants to see what it has in him, but because of his blocking ability.
“He’s a rookie runner likely to get a lot of action in the second half of games … because he’s an accomplished pass protector,” wrote Barrows. “That’s rare among rookie running backs and is invariably the reason when they get stuck on the sideline. Davis had to learn to pass block in Steve Spurrier’s pass-centric offense at South Carolina and he arrives well-polished in that area. That promises to earn him practice repetitions, and practice reps are what allow a player to climb the depth chart.”
Davis has said he’s flattered to be compared with Gore, but says he’s done nothing yet to put himself in the same class.
“Frank Gore is one hell of a running back,” Davis told the media. “He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t want to compare myself to Frank. He’s a great running back, you know. They say we do have similar styles and size. Of course, I’m going to try to match that.”