49ers' rookie RBs impressing, but true test lies ahead

Trey Sermon

SANTA CLARA -- There’s a reason Bobby Turner is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL. 

The venerable 49ers running backs coach has 25 years of experience, but his approach to football was a new concept for Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell. Turner’s emphasis on the ball carriers knowing what all 11 players on the field are doing has been an eye-opening experience for the rookies. 

Both Sermon and Mitchell had previously only focused on what their role was as the ball carrier on the field. Turner has opened their eyes giving them a better understanding of how their role affects the game. 

“It takes all 11players,” Turner said. “I want them to be complete players. I want them to know not only what the running backs do, but the whole scheme, how all 11 players are involved. 

“I want them to be complete players, not only runners and their responsibility -- catching the ball out of the backfield, blocking, faking when they don’t have the football and playing 100-percent.”  

Sermon has some experience running routes but not nearly as much as the 49ers will demand from him. Already taking most of his reps with the first team, the rookie has been seen in all facets of the offense in team drills. 

“He coaches us hard and he expects a lot out of us,” Sermon said. “That’s all you can ask for in a coach. Being coached hard, I just love it. He makes sure we know everything so we are prepared. We have to know it all, it’s what he expects out of us and it helps a lot.” 


Turner started forging his relationship with the young running backs well before they were drafted. Like a college recruiter, the position coach reached out to Sermon and Mitchell hoping he could create a bond and make them comfortable with his style of coaching.

The next step was campaigning for his choices to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, hoping to influence their decisions on draft day. Happy to get his hands on both Sermon and Mitchell through a full offseason program, Turner is pleased with what he has seen so far, but the true test still is ahead. 

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“Right now I’m very happy with them,” Turner said. “But again, it depends on what we do in the preseason because that’s actually when they are going to be tackled and take it to the ground. It’s just that extra pressure. 

“Hopefully they don’t frog up. So far they’ve held everything we’ve thrown at them. I’m happy with them overall."

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