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.

49ers legend Steve Young presents Gatorade Player of the Year Award winner

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Gatorade

49ers legend Steve Young presents Gatorade Player of the Year Award winner

Sophie Jones runs the soccer field, both literally and figuratively. 

She tallied 18 goals, 16 assists and 1.55 points per game for the Knights of Menlo School in Atherton, Calif. Those stats helped lift her team to a 20-win season, which turned into a Central Coast Section Division 1 tournament title.

With those achievements, Jones walked away with the Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year honor Wednesday. 

A friend presented the senior with the trophy -- but not just any friend: 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young.

"It's such an honor, and I can't believe they chose me," Jones said in Gatorade's promotional presentation video.

Jones also maintains solid numbers off the field, with a 3.65 GPA that helps her be recruited by some of the nation's top athletic programs. According to Gatorade, she plans to attend Duke later this year.

A "stellar human being with a fierce inner strength," as her teachers describe her, Jones also volunteers for a U-14 youth soccer team and the Boys and Girls Club, and has worked at the Special Olympics Buddy Program. That shows in her playing abilities on the field as well, with her coach saying he's never witnessed such a selfless player.

"Sophie worked tirelessly to elevate her game year after year, becoming high-impact talent," said Chad Konecky, Gatorade Player of the Year director. "She wins balls, finishes, defends, disrupts and creates in transition, and arguably reads the game as well as any U-20 player in the world."

Young complimented Jones, calling the achievement an exciting one -- and one that very few have ever done. 

Congrats, Sophie!

49ers' Mitch Wishnowsky has deep repertoire of punts from Aussie rules days

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AP

49ers' Mitch Wishnowsky has deep repertoire of punts from Aussie rules days

Mitch Wishnowsky admits he could have been more consistent during the 49ers’ recently concluded offseason program.

The rookie punter, at his best, was very good and gave his teammates and coaches a reason to believe a fourth-round draft pick spent on a punter was a worthy investment.

The 49ers selected the native of Australia with the No. 110 overall selection. General manager John Lynch opted to fill the spot vacated when Bradley Pinion signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rather than select a defensive back or an offensive lineman.

Wishnowsky has an assortment of different punts, which he picked up playing a sport in which punters are not considered specialists. Everyone must learn to punt, oftentimes while on the move, in the game Wishnowsky played back home.

“A lot of the punts you sort of learn growing up playing Australian rules football,” Wishnowsky said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “There’s tradeoffs with every punt.”

Wishnowsky explained his different styles:

“The stock-standard end-over-end punt is a lot more accurate but you can’t get quite as much height or distance on it.

“The spiral, obviously, is the biggest ball. It goes the highest and the furthest.

“The helicopter punt is great, very hard to catch. You can’t kick it quite as far as the spiral. But if you slightly mishit it, it’s going the opposite direction that you want it to.”

Wishnowsky moved to California to punt on the Santa Barbara City College football team in 2014. He transferred to the University of Utah, where he won the 2016 Ray Guy Award and was the only three-time finalist in the history of the award.

The only downside of his final college season was three blocked punts, something he worked to eliminate during his offseason with the 49ers.

“I’ve got to get the ball off in 1.3 seconds, which is what I’ve been doing pretty consistently,” Wishnowsky said. “And the snap is a .7. So if the whole operation is 2 seconds or below, you should be good. Then, also launch point. You want to pretty much as it hits your foot (you’re) directly behind the snapper, so you’re not at risk of getting it blocked.”

[RELATED: Why No. 2 QB job between Beathard and Mullens is toss-up entering camp]

Wishnowsky also will be the 49ers’ holder and, likely, handle kickoff duties. He said he has yet to speak with veteran kicker Robbie Gould, who remains unsigned as the team’s franchise player. Gould has demanded a trade. The 49ers said they will not trade him.

In the meantime, Jonathan Brown, who spent the three previous offseasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and has not appeared in an NFL regular-season game, was the only kicker in Santa Clara.

“The last two years, I’ve been with Matt (Gay), who was drafted to Tampa Bay (in the fifth round),” Wishnowsky said. “I’ve been around great kickers, and Jon is up there. He’s phenomenal the way he contacts the ball. Jon is a very impressive kicker.”