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Frank Gore: Shifty and Smart

Posted Jan 17, 2013

Not only is he one of the toughest running backs around, he’s also one of the smartest.

Frank Gore has carved out a solid eight-year career since the 49ers selected him in the third round of the 2005 Draft and he shows no signs of slowing down. He’s posted back-to-back, 1,200-yard seasons in the first two years of the Jim Harbaugh era, winning over his head coach with his trademark style of play.

Shifty, strong and smart, Gore has also taught Harbaugh a thing or two.

“I know I’ve learned a lot from Frank as well as the other running backs on our team,” Harbaugh said. “He sees it, he sees the big picture, he sees the whole picture. He sees it slowed down and he’s got a very quick mind. He’s able to make quick-minded decisions.”

Week in and week out, Gore amazes his teammates with his ability to detect creases in the offensive line and explode through them at the perfect time. Making something out of nothing has been a staple of Gore’s career, which stacks up favorably against that of almost any running back in today’s game.

Right now, he’s known as the 49ers rushing king. But could he become Coach Gore a few years down the road?

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who could very well be an NFL head coach in the future, said he has talked about Gore’s passion for the game and how it could translate to coaching.

“I always tell Frank, ‘Man, when you’re done playing, come find me or I’ll find you,’” Roman said. “Because he is a guy that I love working with as a player and I’m sure I would love working with as a coach.”

Gore is just 29 years old and still in the prime of his career, but smiled when asked about the potential of coaching after his playing days are over.

“If Coach Roman ever gets a head job and wants to hire me, I’ll be ready,” Gore said. “I think I’d be a great coach. For one, I love the game of football. I’ve been around the game all my life, since I was four. I can tell who are real football players. I got the eye for talent. That’s why I think that.”

First things first, the 49ers have to deal with the Falcons defense that figures to be fired up for the first-ever NFC Championship game in Atlanta.

When looking at film of the Falcons, what stands out to Roman is the athleticism of the defensive line. While Roman noted the quickness and talent of the defensive front, Atlanta hasn’t seen anything like the 49ers attack.

A case could be made that Gore isn’t even the most dangerous runner in the San Francisco backfield these days, a title that could belong to dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast and they are going to have to look out for him,” Gore said. “So hopefully they keep looking out for him and 21 will keep getting the ball and I just do what he did last week.”

Last week, Kaepernick did something no other quarterback had ever done in NFL history: rush for 181 yards in a single game. With the addition of the zone-read option scheme into the offensive gameplan, the 49ers have been hard to stop. Even though Gore’s 119 yards weren’t the tops on the team, he was happy to see Kaepernick run wild.

“Hey, last week wasn’t the first time,” Gore said. “He did it a couple other times this year. So like I say, as long as we get the win I don’t care who has the most yards and whatever, catching, running. I just want the ‘W.’”

Gore admitted it was a big adjustment when Roman ramped up the zone-read plays with Kaepernick under center. But given his experience and football IQ, Gore has grown with the change in offense, even if he doesn’t know whether or not he’s getting the ball from snap to snap.

“I thought he had some just incredible runs in our last game on those types of plays,” Roman said. “It’s of no surprise to us here.”

The 323 rushing yards last week set a new franchise record in the postseason. As talented as the ball carriers are, they wouldn’t have any space if it weren’t for lead blockers like fullback Bruce Miller, who has constantly opened holes with impact blocks at the point of attack.

“It’s awesome just to be able to be a part of what we’re doing and play with guys that I’m having a chance to play with,” Miller said. “It’s really exciting, especially with what we’re being able to accomplish as a team.”

Aside from his football preparation, Miller has also been a busy man on the phones this week trying to coordinate ticket requests from friends and family. The Woodstock, Ga., native grew up about 40 minutes away from the Georgia Dome and frequently attended Falcons games with his family, but Sunday will mark his first time actually stepping on the turf for a game.

Miller is one of the lucky members of the 2011 49ers draft class who has reached the NFC Championship in consecutive years to start his career. After talking with his veteran teammates, Miller realizes the full magnitude of the upcoming contest.

“Some guys go 12, 15, 16 years in the league and never played in one of them,” Miller said of the NFC title game. “We’ve got two back-to-back and we’re fortunate for these opportunities and we’ve got to make them count.”

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