This piece was originally written at Examiner.com .
The San Francisco 49ers offense has gone through a few changes since first being installed by offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye last season.
The 49ers were branded as a running team and pounding the rock would be their main source of offense. Now with quarterback Alex Smith under center, the 49ers have opened up the passing game for offense.
Yet entering into training camp, one of the biggest questions still surrounds the team's running game: Who will be running back Frank Gore's backup?
Head coach Mike Singletary has said that that position will be determined during training camp between second-year running back Glen Coffee and rookie running back Anthony Dixon.
Both backs are different in size and bring different running styles to the table.
"Glen is a tough guy and you like to be able to run him in between the tackles, but you have to watch that sometimes because he’s not as big a guy," Singletary said after Wednesday's morning practice. "Dixon is a bigger guy that sometimes runs like a smaller back. He’s got really good feet and he’s got good vision.
"So it’s just a matter of when we take a step back and Jimmy Raye looks at them, it’s adding that next piece to the offense and what packages do we want to run and which packages do they fit in.”
So far into training camp, Coffee has been receiving more reps with the offense, including reps with the first team. On Wednesday, the team added a few new installations to the running game, with Coffee being one of the main backs in the offense during the plays.
"Right now we're trying to get better at the little things," explained Coffee in reference to the new installation packages for the team. "As far as receiving more playing time, I let the coaches worry about that."
In order to improve his abilities on the field, Coffee needed to change during the offseason. The second-year back out of Alabama worked out at team headquarters throughout the offseason, hoping to add on more weight to his 209-pound frame (according to the team's media guide). Coffee said that he currently weighs 219 pounds, but wants to reach 225 pounds.
"I had to put on that weight, so the easiest way was to isolate myself and stay here," Coffee explained for his reasoning to remain in the Bay Area. "I'm definitely feeling good, especially with a couple days in camp. My body still feels fresh."
By adding the extra weight, Coffee sees it as a compliment to his style of running up the middle. Frank Gore has been that up the middle, one-cut type of running back and head coach Mike Singletary believes that Gore's backup would need to be a change of pace type of back.
“I think it’s good to have a change of pace guy," Singletary said. "That’s the thing that creates different things for defenses. You want on the offensive side to have flexibility and at the same time if you have a running back that can do one thing really well, you bring in the next guy and he does the same thing, then the defense doesn’t really have to think any differently."
Singletary noted that there is a chance that the 49ers would keep Gore, Coffee and Dixon on the opening day roster. However, the third-string back would receive most playing time through special teams. When asked about being in competition with Dixon, Coffee explained that the competition was within himself.
"You never want to compete against somebody else, you want to compete against yourself," said Coffee of the battle for the backup spot. "I feel like if you compete against somebody else, you run into problems, you run into trouble; you never want to compare."
Coffee understands that he has to establish his own identity as a running back. But when it comes to seeking advice from a veteran, turning to Gore was an obvious choice.
"Frank does everything right, so it's easy to take things and try to learn from that," he said. "You always want to learn from someone who has established himself as a great running back in the league. It's definitely a plus."
While the conversation will continue throughout camp as to which running back would be the best backup for the team, there's still a humble approach in Coffee's attitude to the entire situation. Knowing that he couldn't change what his competition will do on the field, Coffee continues to look into ways to make his own situation better.
"As long as you try to better yourself, it doesn't matter who is on the team or who is on the opposite team," he said. "You've always got to work to improve on yourself. You should never compare yourself to somebody else."
Over the past few days, Coffee has emerged as the early lead candidate to secure the backup spot with improving cuts through the holes for big gains. There really was no need to compare him to any other running back. He stood out on his own.