Carlos Hyde being pushed by 49ers new RBs to ‘take game to next level’
The San Francisco 49ers have almost an entirely new group of running backs heading into 2017 after new coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch turned over more than half the 90-man roster this offseason.
Only presumptive starter running back Carlos Hyde and reserve Raheem Mostert are returning after last year under Chip Kelly. Shanahan and Lynch have brought in running backs via the draft (Joe Williams), trade (Kapri Bibbs) and free agency (Tim Hightower).
And all those additions, who fit Shanahan’s outside zone system, are pushing Hyde to earn the top job after not having much competition to start the last two seasons.
“I feel like there’s more competition in the room now,” Hyde said recently. “Bobby (Turner) stresses it every day that he wants guys in the room competing. And, I mean, any one of those guys can go in and be the starter.
“. . . That just pushes me (to) take my game to the next level, because I want to be the starter. Every guy in the room wants to be the starter. It’s going to help everybody out, our whole competition. It’ll benefit all of us.”
Not only is Hyde adjusting to the new faces in the running back room, but he has to learn an entirely new system that’s different from Kelly’s. San Francisco’s former one-and-done coach ran an inside zone, zone-read attack that was similar to what Hyde ran at Ohio State, making his transition relatively seamless.
Shanahan’s system relies on the quarterback being under center far more often with the running back aligning seven-yards deep. Hyde, known for his bruising style, will be asked to run outside far more after Shanahan used speedsters Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman last year with Atlanta to form the league’ fifth-ranked rushing attack.
“It’s way different than what we did with coach Kelly. But it’s good though,” said Hyde. “With the offense, there’s a lot of opportunity with the running back. Not only carrying the ball, but playing as a receiver also. I mean, everything’s different from what we did last year.”
Hyde’s at a flashpoint in his career. He’s entering the last season of his rookie contract and would presumably be among the top running backs available on the free agent market based on talent alone.
But his production with the 49ers hasn’t quite lived up to expectations after he was drafted in the second round in 2014 to be Frank Gore’s heir apparent. Hyde has dealt with various injuries, including a stress fracture in his foot that caused him to miss nine games in 2015. He had a pin inserted for stability.
Hyde, 26, last season finished with a career-high 988 yards rushing with nine touchdowns (six rushing, three receiving) while missing three games.
He received a somewhat tepid endorsement from Lynch in April after a report ahead of the NFL draft indicated the team was ready to move on while considering LSU star Leonard Fournette in the first round, who wound up going to Jacksonville at No. 4.
“I know that when I was a player and I went through a couple coaching changes, I think as a player, one of the great things about this league and frankly what drove me to get back into it is that you’re always proving yourself, I think in particular when there’s a new regime,” Lynch said.
“And, I hope Carlos feels that way, but I can also tell you that we’re really high on him and what he might be able to do in this offense. We think he can be a highly productive player, but we’re eager to see. You have these thoughts as to do these skills translate to what we do? He’s a very talented young man and we’re very excited and hopeful just in the interactions we’ve had that he’s come ready to play.”