49ers

If 49ers add running back in offseason, who drops off the depth chart?

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

If 49ers add running back in offseason, who drops off the depth chart?

The 49ers could add another running back in the offseason, all right.

They could draft a power back who provides a different style of running than the players already on their roster. Or, as many sentimental 49ers fans have suggested, they could sign veteran Frank Gore, who turns 36 in May.

But if they add a running back, somebody is going to have to sit.

The 49ers have Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida under contract. Raheem Mostert is likely to return as a restricted free agent. As the team’s best special-teams player and a capable No. 3 running back, a healthy Mostert is assured of suiting up for every game.

The 49ers finished 13th in the NFL last season with 118.9 yards rushing per game. They tied for 12th in the league with a 4.5-yard average. Where the 49ers struggled, in particular, was near the goal line. The 49ers tied for 30th with just seven rushing touchdowns.

Yet, the 49ers were effective short-yardage situations. On third- and fourth-down attempts of 1 or 2 yards, the 49ers were successful on 21 of 26 opportunities (81 percent).

Coach Kyle Shanahan addressed his throughts on a short-yardage back a year ago after the addition of McKinnon.

“We’ll continue to look in the draft, and we’ll always look to add running backs,” Shanahan said. “When it comes to a big bruiser for the goal line, no one is just running over guys unblocked, either. You need to find open holes and be a good running back.”

Shanahan chose McKinnon a year ago in free agency for his running, his receiving and his ability to exploit mismatches in the middle of the field.

Make no mistake, Shanahan selected McKinnon, whom the New York Jets also pursued on the open market. The 49ers were going to go about as high as necessary to make sure they signed McKinnon.

Shanahan had big plans for a restructured 49ers offense. He envisioned an offense designed around the basic principle that defenses would be compromised when making decisions on how to simultaneously cover McKinnon, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a healthy slot receiver, Trent Taylor, and tight end George Kittle. There would be holes in the defenses, and Shanahan envisioned Jimmy Garoppolo exploiting the weak links – especially on third downs.

But all those plans were blown up a week before the start of the regular season when McKinnon sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament.

McKinnon continues his rehabilitation and training, and the 49ers can only hope he can return physically to somewhere close to his pre-injury form.

In McKinnon’s absence last season, Breida rushed for 814 yards despite battling knee, shoulder and ankle injuries that kept him listed as “questionable” for a large portion of the season. He averaged a hefty 5.3 yards a carry.

Mostert is scheduled for restricted free agency. The 49ers will not let him go, and could even target him for a multi-year contract extension. Mostert proved to be a valuable player on a 46-man game day roster because of his value on special teams.

And when given a chance at running back, the speedster averaged 7.7 yards a carry before sustaining a fractured forearm in Week 9 against the Raiders.

[RELATED: As expected, 49ers will not pick up option on Pierre Garçon]

Veteran Alfred Morris is not expected back, and Jeff Wilson faces an uphill climb for a roster spot despite showing some promise late in the season after his promotion from the practice squad.

So while the 49ers could easily add another running back to their mix, the bigger question is which player would be pushed aside to create opportunities for a new player.

Watch ex-49ers assistant Keanon Lowe disarm gunman at Portland school

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AP

Watch ex-49ers assistant Keanon Lowe disarm gunman at Portland school

It's a video that has gone viral of a moment an Oregon coach disarmed a student who entered a school possessing a firearm.

Keanon Lowe, a former 49ers assistant coach, now serves as the head football coach and security guard at Parkrose High School in Portland, Ore. He's also a hero after preventing a shooting when he embraced a gunman and caused them to surrender his weapon:

The gunman walked into one of the buildings at the school with a shotgun hidden under a jacket he was carrying in his arms on May 17.

“I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him," Lowe told reporters. "I told him I was there to save him. I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.”

Lowe is also a former standout star wide receiver at the University of Oregon. 

“The universe works in amazing ways," Lowe added. "I’m lucky and I’m happy that I was in that classroom for all those kids and I was able to prevent that tragedy."

Nobody was injured in the events.

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How 49ers' George Kittle went from 'scrawny' receiver to elite tight end

How 49ers' George Kittle went from 'scrawny' receiver to elite tight end

George Kittle wasn’t always the hulking, 250-pound tight end that set the NFL single-season receiving mark for a the position in just his second NFL season.

When he showed up at the University of Iowa, Kittle was a 6-foot-2, 185-pound high school wide receiver with a strong work ethic. 

It was in Iowa City that Kittle’s body underwent a dramatic transformation.

"If you look at any of his high school photos, it will blow your mind," Kittle's mom Jan said.

"He was scrawny when he came to Iowa,” Kittle’s wife Claire said. “But I think that's kind of just how a lot of people are. So they grow into their body and they become the man that they're supposed to be.”

“He certainly embraced our program, he worked very hard,” Iowa Strength and Conditioning coach Chris Doyle told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Had to change his eating habits and change his lifestyle from that regard to kind of grow into just the process of becoming a Division I football player.”

In addition to growing several inches during his time with the Hawkeyes, Kittle put on a whopping 35 pounds during his college career.

“It's overwhelming every single time I see him,” Emma Kittle, George’s older sister, said. “Because he’s still George, and like my little brother. But like physically, he is a man.”

He certainly plays like a man on the field, as the 26-year-old has blossomed into one of the NFL’s top tight ends, even earning a second-team All-Pro designation after his breakout 2018 season.

The Kittle family certainly is not short on impressive athletes, as his father Bruce was also a tight end at Iowa and sister Emma was a Division I volleyball player at Iowa and Oklahoma. His mother Jan lettered in both basketball and softball at Drake University.

[RELATED: Kittle among players to watch vs. Washington]

While puberty may have set in a little later than most for George, his dedication to his craft has manifested itself as he now stands as the No. 1 receiving option on an undefeated 49ers team.

“I've witnessed everything that he's done so far and like all the hard work,” Emma said. “And so to see him succeeding at this level is like, he was born to do this. He was born to have the spotlight on him. He was born to have this type of pressure, like to carry people to work this hard.”