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LaMichael James Is 'Dimensional' Option for 49ers

Posted Jul 26, 2014

With Kendall Hunter being the victim of a torn right ACL in Friday’s training camp practice, James and rookie runner Carlos Hyde are now considered the frontrunners to be Frank Gore’s backup.


LaMichael James is 18 pounds heavier than he was during his rookie season.

Entering year three of his NFL career, the San Francisco 49ers running back could have a little more weight in the offense's game plan, too.

With Kendall Hunter being the victim of a torn right ACL in Friday’s training camp practice, James and rookie runner Carlos Hyde are now considered the frontrunners to be Frank Gore’s backup.

The Hunter news was described as a “blow” to the 49ers offense, according to coordinator Greg Roman.

“He looked so good,” San Francisco’s play-caller said of Hunter. “It doesn’t get better than him as a person and as a contributor.”

James said he remained in communication with Hunter throughout the night and again Saturday morning.

“Kendall is one of my best friends on the team,” James said. “Any time you see someone close to you get hurt like that, it’s kind of depressing. You never want to see that. I’m a little down for him… You gotta try to play for him. That’s the way I have to look at it.”

James will have to continue on as he looks to climb the depth chart. Saturday’s practice was the first padded session of the year and a chance to showcase his running and blocking skills.

“I know everybody’s looking at me now,” said James, who looks bulkier compared to his ’12 form. “I’m going to go out and I’m going to work hard.”

The added size, however isn’t changing James’ best attribute on the field.

“I’m still fast,” he said.

James said he was 190 pounds as a rookie, 200 pounds as a sophomore and now at 208 pounds.

“I’m pretty accurate with the numbers,” he said.

James now has a good chance to play more offensive snaps in Hunter’s place.

In 2012, when Hunter was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, James picked up the slack as the change-of-pace back on offense. James played a big role in the postseason run, scoring his first career touchdown in the franchise’s NFC Championship win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Prior to the injury, the former second-round draft pick was entering camp as the team’s top punt and kick returner. Now he could have an even larger role.

“There’s a lot of things we can do with him,” Roman said of James. “He’s a multi-dimensional player.”

Roman said the backup running back won’t be crowned anytime soon. Per Roman, the competition “will unfold throughout training camp.”

James is the most experienced option on the current roster.

In his two seasons with the 49ers, he has carried the ball 39 times for 184 career rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry). James, however, has not scored a regular season touchdown.

“When I was a rookie, it was a little difficult picking up everything,” James said. “Now it’s my third year, I feel like I have a better grasp of the offense.”

The same goes for special teams. James averaged 10.9 yards per punt return and 26.8 yards per kick return last season

He said he looks forward to that role, too.

“I think it’s another way to get the ball in my hands,” James said. “Last year was the first year. I feel like I can grow in that and kick return and running back. Whatever it is, I want to be an all-around player.”