Is Carlos Hyde the Next Great 49ers Running Back?


San Francisco 49ers’ fans have gotten used to a certain level of success from their running backs. Frank Gore has established himself as one of the best to ever carry the football and is still running like he’s 25. Over his nine-plus season career, Gore has racked up 10,370 yards on the ground, good for 26th all-time, and 61 touchdowns.

He’s not just a big number running back, he is as consistent as they come. He has carried the ball at least 200 times every year since 2006, and has gone over 1,000 yards all but one season since his rookie year.

Even with as gracefully as Gore has aged, he will not always be in the 49ers’ backfield. The 49ers will eventually have to think of finding the next great red and gold running back when Gore decides to hang up his cleats. But the 49ers may have already found him.

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The 49ers took Carlos Hyde in the second round with the 57th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. The young running back out of the Ohio State University came with a hefty resume. The 235-pound power back spent four years at Ohio State and played in 41 games. He racked up 3,198 yards, 37 touchdowns, and a very good 6.1 yards per carry average.

Hyde’s junior and senior years were fantastic. In 2012, his junior season, he played in 10 games, carried the ball 185 times, and racked up 970 yards and 16 touchdowns. He earned second-team All-Big 10 for his efforts.

His senior season was even better. Despite missing the first three games due to a suspension, he totaled 208 carries, 1,521 yards, scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 YPC. He was awarded third-team All-American and first-team All-Big 10 honors.

In his last two years at Ohio State, he played in 21 games, gained 2,491 yards, and scored 31 touchdowns. His averages of 6.3 YPC, 118.6 yards per game, and 12.7 carries per touchdown show that he can be a primary back and that he has a nose for the end zone.

Hyde wasn’t drafted to be the backup running back immediately. Coming into training camp, the 49ers already had three established ball-carriers on the depth chart in front of the rookie.

August 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Levi

Behind the obvious starter Gore, there was Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore competing with Hyde for snaps. But Hunter tore his ACL in training camp, ending his season before it ever got started. Then James found himself unhappy in his place with the team. He asked for and was granted his release by the team. Lattimore, whose career at South Carolina was injury-riddled, was deemed unready for the start of the season and placed on the Non-Football/Injured List.

With all the injuries and uncertainty around the position, Hyde was thrust into the number-two running back role. He has done admirably thus far in his first six games. He has 45 rushing attempts for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

The average of 3.2 YPC doesn’t look all that pretty, but Hyde is running behind an offensive line dealing with a lot of injuries. He is still doing what made him so successful at Ohio State. He’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and deliver a big hit before the big hit gets delivered. At 235 pounds, Hyde is as big as a linebacker, and he hits like one too.

Hyde has a lot working for him. He’s a tough young runner who punishes and wears down defenses. He also has a great mentor in the future Hall of Famer Gore. Gore’s influence on Hyde is already showing through, as Hyde has shown the ability to reverse field and find a hole that many guys wouldn’t see.

Hyde may not be able to fill Gore’s shoes when he leaves. No one may be able to. But Hyde is making his own path, one lowered shoulder at a time.