Kyle Juszczyk was on vacation in Thailand when he got the call from Mike McDaniel. The San Francisco 49ers had just signed Tevin Coleman, and McDaniel needed to share his elation with somebody. Who better than the fullback who will be Coleman’s lead blocker?
There aren’t many coaches who know Coleman better than McDaniel. The team’s run game coordinator – along with Kyle Shanahan and passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur – spent two seasons with Coleman with the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta selected Coleman in the third round (73rd overall) in 2015. According to McDaniel, Shanahan and the rest of the offensive coaching staff believed Coleman was worth a second-rounder. The running back scored 11 total touchdowns in Shanahan’s offense in 2016 – his best season as a pro.
Now Coleman is reunited with Shanahan, McDaniel and Co. in San Francisco.
“That was the equivalent of a March Christmas because we hold him in such high regard,” McDaniel said of the signing.
Added LaFleur: “He can run and he’s explosive, no doubt. The thing that really sticks out with Tevin is how fearless and physical this guy is. He is a man out there. When you tell him to put his foot in the ground and go north and south, he’s going to do it times 10. It’s every single week. It’s every single down. You’re always getting the same guy. … When we need him to get us a yard, he’s going to get us a yard every single time.”
It’s evident that Coleman has experience in Shanahan’s offense. He’s hit the ground running and impressed his teammates and coaches during the offseason program.
“Tevin has been awesome,” Juszczyk said. “This has been a great time for him and I to work together and get a feel for each other. The guy works super hard and is super consistent. He runs the zone scheme phenomenally. I’ve just been seeing him make plays.”
Coleman posted 1,076 total yards and nine touchdowns in 2018 with the Falcons. Now he joins a loaded backfield alongside, most notably, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Juszczyk. Special teams ace Raheem Mostert and second-year back Jeff Wilson have also shown their ability to contribute.
“It’s safe to say that this is the deepest backfield that I’ve ever been around,” McDaniel said. “You could go to war with anybody on our roster.”
Coleman is currently enjoying a lion’s share of practice reps with McKinnon (ACL), Breida (pectoral) and Mostert (forearm) all on the shelf. But all three are expected to be back by training camp.
It will be a challenge – albeit a champagne problem – for the coaching staff to split up gameday reps and figure out how each guy will be used. There are a lot of mouths to feed and only so many touches to go around.
“That conversation hasn’t happened,” LaFleur said. “We’re just so happy to look at that board and know we have a lot of quality running backs – guys who have played in this league and guys who have played in this offense.”
First and foremost, it’s imperative to maintain a positive culture within the running backs room. McDaniel isn’t worried about that part and said everyone has bought into the mantra of, “We all have success when one has success.”
Matchups will impact which runner is featured on a game-to-game basis. Each opponent will have varying weaknesses that Shanahan will look to take advantage of. It won’t always be the same running back that gives the 49ers the best chance to do so.
“We know what these guys can do, so how can we exploit the defense with what they can do? It can change week in and week out,” LaFleur said.
Juszczyk envisions a similar scenario playing out.
“I anticipate that you’re going to see a different guy shine each week. There’s so much skill in that room – there’s so much talent that I think it’s going to be hard to keep anyone off the field. It’s going to be hard to focus on just one guy.
“I think each week you’re going to see somebody different make a big play. I think it’s a good thing. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m interested to see what Kyle does with us.”