Jarryd Hayne’s entire life of American football consists of 15 rushing attempts, six punt returns and one kickoff return.
But coach Jim Tomsula said Sunday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters that he has seen Hayne enough – from his days in Australia’s National Rugby League to what he’s done since signing with the 49ers in March – to know all he needs to know.
“First of all, to separate Jarryd from the total picture, I’m pretty confident in Jarryd’s ability to field the ball,” Tomsula said. “I’ve watched a ton of tape on this guy fielding a rugby ball. I’ve seen him field here at practice. I’ve seen him field in game situations. So I feel very good about his abilities to field. I feel very good about his abilities to perform with the ball in his hands on special teams.”
[MAIOCCO: Snap count: Hayne understands limited action]
Hayne is in the competition to be the 49ers’ return specialist, but Tomsula said he also considers Reggie Bush, Bruce Ellington and undrafted rookie DeAndrew White of Alabama as candidates for the role.
Ellington handled the duties as a rookie. He played his first exhibition game of the summer on Saturday in Denver after missing extensive time with a hamstring strain. Ellington returned one kickoff 20 yards, did not field any punts, but also had three receptions for 29 yards.
“I thought he looked very quick,” Tomsula said. “I thought he looked explosive. I thought there were a lot of good things out of Bruce last night.”
The 49ers would also like to see Hayne become more of a factor on the coverage units on special teams.
“The tackling part of it, the coverage part of it, I’ve seen a lot of improvement there,” Tomsula said. “The guy will fly down the field in those areas. All those things, we’ve seen, I’ve seen what I need to see. It’s been a great evaluation on him.”