On a roster largely already built for a championship run, the San Francisco 49ers don’t have many spots open for competition. Still, there are some to sort out.
Backup RB: Kendall Hunter vs. Carlos Hyde
For the past few seasons the backup duties behind Frank Gore have belonged to Kendall Hunter, who has handled the job very well. However, with Gore winding down the search has begun not just for his backup but for his replacement as well. Hunter has his eyes on that prize, but the 49ers threw a wrench in the gears when they drafted Ohio State star Carlos Hyde in the 2nd round. Most already see him as the heir apparent to Gore, and a clear favorite to steal the backup job. Hunter must work hard to prevent both, but in the end may fall to natural progression given the expectations.
Center: Daniel Kilgore vs. Marcus Martin
Jonathan Goodwin was a more than adequate center for the San Francisco 49ers front for the past few years but his age was becoming a factor. Reserve center Daniel Kilgore now fully expects to get his shot at the starting job, but the team isn’t about to hand it to him. That is why they scooped up USC center Marcus Martin. While not quite polished, he was considered the most physically gifted center in the entire 2014 draft. Kilgore has the edge in experience, so he should be able to get a leg up in the race, but he can’t afford a letdown because Martin is too good to ignore.
Inside Linebacker: Chris Borland vs. Michael Wilhoite
NaVorro Bowman is out for the forseeable future as he continues to rehab the knee he shredded against the Seattle Seahawks. Until he is 100%, the San Francisco 49ers will have to fill his spot next to Patrick Willis. At present 27-year old Michael Wilhoite, who filled in at times for Willis last year should have first crack at the job. He is consistent and doesn’t make very many mistakes. Opposing him will be rookie Chris Borland. While undersized, the Wisconsin standout is a tremendous hitter and tackler. He boasts elite level instincts and is a leader on the field. Talent-wise he’s not Bowman, but mentally there might not be anybody on the roster closer than Borland. Wilhoite will lead the depth chart, but any thoughts of him pocketing the job are woefully mistaken.