Jeff Lewis/Associated Press
Carlos Hyde stands to be the heir apparent to Frank Gore.
Carlos Hyde, Running Back
Forget for a moment the apparent transition the 49ers are making towards a dynamic passing offense. Forget the contract extension to Colin Kaepernick and forget the multiple additions at wide receiver during the offseason.
San Francisco is a run-first, power-running team. This concept has been at the heart of the 49ers offense for years and why should we speculate a lot of changes moving forward?
Running the ball down the oppositions' throat is one of the primary reasons behind San Francisco's success in recent years.
In an age where the passing game has become ever more prevalent, the 49ers' theory of run-first attacks on offense stands in stark, but successful, contrast. Three straight NFC Championship game appearances do enough to warrant this suggestion in this author's view.
But there is a pending problem.
For years, Frank Gore has been the bell cow of San Francisco's offense. At 31 years old however, Gore is winding down. There is simply no getting beyond that fact.
With Gore under contract for one more season, the 49ers are looking to turn the page without having to change the philosophy or impact.
In 2013, Marcus Lattimore was destined to be that guy. Redshirting his rookie season after recovering from a collegiate knee injury, the former Gamecock prospect looked as if he would be the favorite to take over Gore's role.
Then San Francisco added Ohio State's Carlos Hyde in Round 2 of the 2014 NFL draft.
Hyde was shocked, but pleased that the 49ers drafted him per Jimmy Durkin of The San Jose Mercury News:
[That’s] definitely a smile on my face to go to an organization that leads the NFL in rushing and rushing attempts (49ers actually ranked No. 3 in both categories). Knowing that, I definitely got excited because, in college, all I wanted to do is run that ball. To come to an organization that that’s what they do, that’s exciting.
Combine this mindset with the elements that comprise Hyde's style of play, and it is easy to see why the 49ers drafted him.
Yet there is an even greater intangible when it comes to comparing Hyde to Gore.
Nikhil Ramgiri of Fansided.com points out a couple of key attributes to Hyde's game:
Like Lattimore, Hyde shares several traits with Gore, but he is not an exact clone of the incumbent Niner tailback. Hyde has something that Lattimore and Gore do not—big-play ability. That isn’t to say that Lattimore and Gore do not have the ability to rip off a game-changing run ... But Hyde possesses real north-south and east-west speed. He didn’t really display that speed at the combine (4.66 40-yard dash time), but he has natural football speed.
Ramgiri does point out that Hyde does not possess the elite vision that Gore has, but Hyde can make up for this given his uncanny ability and strength.
It is power running at its best.
Now, the question is which one of the young 49ers backs eventually earns the nod when the time comes for Gore to end his San Francisco career. Will it be Lattimore or Hyde?
ESPN 49ers reporter Bill Williamson feels as if Hyde is the favorite to get the most reps behind Gore, citing San Francisco's desire to be patient with Lattimore post injury.
This author holds the same reservations as Williamson and many other 49ers pundits. Hyde looks as if he has a brighter future as San Francisco's featured back.
Hyde obviously is the best beneficiary of San Francisco's offensive scheme. We all know how much the 49ers love to run the ball and now they have yet another back who can fit right into that job.
It is the perfect situation for Hyde and the 49ers stand not to lose too much at the conclusion of the Gore era.
Gore will still be the primary back, at least at the initial phase of the season. Hyde will be directly behind him and eventually receive more touches as the 49ers rest Gore for a playoff push. Lattimore's development should continue to be brought along slowly.
The real question is what happens in 2015. Gore is likely gone at this point and Kendall Hunter will be a free agent. Perhaps Hyde and Lattimore wind up being a two-headed monster emanating out of the San Francisco backfield.
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Contractual information courtesy of Spotrac.com.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Be sure to check out his entire archive on 49ers' coverage, analysis and insight.
Follow @PeterMcShots on Twitter.