Greg Roman said this shaped up to be the most competitive training camp the 49ers have had since he joined the team before the 2011 season, and that’s not just hyperbole. Besides quarterback, every position on the offensive side is going to go down to the wire. That includes running back, where Frank Gore is still at the top.
“You know how I feel about it,” said Jim Harbaugh. “I feel like Frank is still at the top of his game. I made the comment very clearly that I think he’s got three years of football left in him. I think that’s his mindset as well.”
Behind Gore are the incumbents — Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton and Marcus Lattimore, one of the most talked about players on the roster. Harbaugh said Lattimore would take part fully in this week’s minicamp, and said he’s seeing some progress from the 2013 fourth round pick who spent all of last season rehabilitating his knee and learning the offense.
“I have, I have. Really been a daily, weekly progression with Marcus. Every day seems to get more confident and get more strength and more feel. Which is translating into more burst, quicker turnover with his leg cycle. Think things are progressing day by day,” said Harbaugh.
Then there’s Carlos Hyde, who the 49ers picked in the second round in May. Unlike the team’s last second round back, James, Hyde is a big runner who always seems to be falling forward. I asked Roman what Lattimore and Hyde bring to this group of running backs that they didn’t have last year.
“Both are very accomplished runners with very different styles. Carlos, since he got here from the draft, really impressed me as a guy that … football really makes sense to him. If you can just tell him what to do, you don’t have to tell him too much. That’s a beautiful thing in a running back because they have a lot of adjustments to make and protection, etc.
“Marcus is right on track. He brings a little bit more of a slashing style. So, very different styles, but we like what we see out of both of them. Just need to continue those guys on their tracks.”
The part about football making sense to Hyde caught my attention, because it sounded an awful lot like what Harbaugh and Roman say about Gore. So I made sure to preface my follow-up question by saying that we all know no one wants to compare Hyde to the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, but … isn’t the ability to understand where he needs to be and what he needs to do at all times similar to what’s made Gore so great?
“I don’t want to compare those two or put that burden on his shoulders. But Frank’s a guy that just (snaps fingers), it makes sense like that,” Roman said before alluding to a potential comparison.
“I’ll let you do that.”