SANTA CLARA – Carlos Hyde, a second-round pick last year, returns to take on his expected role as the 49ers’ starting running back. But nothing will be handed to him as a second-year player.
The 49ers also added Reggie Bush as a free agent and invested a fourth-round draft pick in Mike Davis.
The 49ers will have a leading rusher this season not named Frank Gore for the first time since Gore was a rookie in 2005. One player who has been mostly overlooked is Kendall Hunter, who sat out all of last season after sustaining a torn ACL in the 49ers’ second practice of training camp.
Hunter rushed for more yards in each of his first three NFL seasons than Hyde’s 333 yards last season. And based on the 49ers’ offseason program, Hunter looks as if he has made a full recovery from the knee injury.
“Kendall, he’s coming along great,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. “I think we all have strong feelings for Kendall. He is, you see him out there moving. He’s moving around great. But we definitely have a rep count on him. There’s a rep count on all of those guys. You’ve got to keep him corralled. But he’s moving around really quick.”
Hunter has 1,202 career rushing yards (4.6 average) and seven touchdowns in 43 career regular-season games. He returned in 2013 from a partially torn Achilles to rush for 358 yards in 2013 before sustaining the season-ending injury before the season even began. Hyde took over as the No. 2 back behind Gore and averaged 4.0 yards per carry with four touchdowns.
The 49ers believe they are in good shape to replace Gore with a stable of running backs. At this point, Tomsula said the coaching staff is not even talking about how to share the carries and play time.
“I’m not talking depth charts or anything right now, but they’re all getting after it,” Tomsula said.
He added, “We haven’t determined any of that yet. We haven’t even discussed that. We’re just looking at it as a whole group of running backs that we’re really excited about.”
Hyde has been kept out of action for a couple weeks with a what Tomsula describes as a minor muscle pull in his leg (not his hamstring). Tomsula said if it were the regular season, Hyde would be able to play. But there is no reason to take any chances during this time of the year.
“You talk to our medical people, different time of the year, Carlos would be pushing through. But why? That’s my whole point on everything,” Tomsula said. “Why do that now and take any kind of chances on things? Let’s just get it healed and get going.”