SANTA CLARA -- Running back Carlos Hyde enters the final year of his contract, and the 49ers have created flexibility in their plan for future seasons.
Hyde has a chance to convince the organization’s decision-makers he’s worthy of a role in the long-term rebuilding project with a contract extension after this season.
Hyde, 26, is coming off his best season since arriving on the scene as a second-round draft pick in 2014. He replaced Frank Gore as the starter to open the 2015 season. Hyde rushed for 988 yards and six touchdowns with a 4.6-yard average in 13 games last season.
Now, he must prove himself to a new coaching staff, including his fourth head coach in four seasons. Hyde is working with the 49ers' first-team offense during the offseason program. Six running backs split 19 rushing attempts during a practice last week, and Hyde carried the ball seven times.
“He’s doing an outstanding job,” 49ers running backs coach Bobby Turner said of Hyde. “But, again, I’m not surprised. You don’t always get what you expect, so I’m constantly inspecting my players consistently. But he’s eager. He’s eager to learn, and at this point in time he’s doing a good job.”
The 49ers appeared to enact their succession plan at running back during the draft. Turner and coach Kyle Shanahan were proponents of selecting Utah running back Joe Williams in the fourth round. General manager John Lynch, who had removed Williams from the team’s draft board, reconsidered his feelings on Williams and traded up to select him with the No. 121 overall pick.
“You have to know what you’re looking for,” Turner said. “You coach all the players up, and then it’s up to them. And, truthfully, I know when to get out of the way.
“There are a lot of people that’s involved in coaching the running backs, because everybody thinks they can coach the running backs. And so my ability is -- and the reason I’ve been doing this a long time -- is knowing when to get out of the way. I’m going to coach, coach, coach, coach, but get out of the way and let the players play, and let them run free.”
Williams showed all of the traits that convinced Turner and Shanahan he was a good fit for the team’s zone run scheme. The night before the fourth round of the draft, Shanahan told Peter King of the MMQB how much he wanted Williams.
“I’m telling you right now: If we don’t get him, I’ll be sick,” Shanahan said. “I will be contemplating Joe Williams all night.”
Turner has not seen anything during the 49ers’ offseason program that leads him away from his belief that Williams could thrive in the team’s system.
“He has the tools, the qualities of other players that’s worked well in the system,” Turner said. “But, again, there’s the toughness, and I’m not going to pinpoint everything, but he’s hungry, he has the physical tools, he has that speed, that foot quickness, and when it comes down to it, the mental toughness.”
“You pick up things, tone of voice and all those things. So, yeah, we all have adversities, and things like that. But I love what I saw in Joe.”