Where Does LaMichael James Fit with the Niners?

The San Francisco 49ers have upgraded multiple positions during the offseason, including at running back by drafting former Duck LaMichael James, signing on former New York Giant Brandon Jacobs, and still holding on to Kendall Hunter.

July 29, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James (23) during training camp at the 49ers practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Frank Gore, the current 49ers starting running back, is entering his eighth season with the team. He’s had four straight seasons running for over 1,000 yards between 2006-2009 before suffering an injury in week 11 of 2010. With the bounceback of 1,211 yards on 282 carries, it was his most productive season since gaining career highs back in 2006.

It’s a lot of mileage for a running back to carry in the professional league, and the window of opportunity continues to close for these players.

The recent acquisitions don’t seem to affect Gore, according to a recent post on a 49ers blog at SFGate. Even at 29 years old, he’s excited about all the incoming players to build upon the team that made it to the NFC Championship a season ago.

“That makes our team better,” Gore said in his first training camp interview, “when you see good players at whatever position. That’s how you know how good your team is getting. I’m cool with it.”

Don’t expect much to change unless the starter garners an injury during the preseason, but he will be limited on his play regardless to prevent that from happening.

A bread-and-butter play, as the blog even states, is a simple hand-off to Gore up the middle and letting the back decide which hole to pound through. His patience and quick speed once making a decision has made him into such a talent to have on the field. Jacobs brings in experience, and he will likely see some playing time right behind him. Hunter will likely lose some snaps, but he’s worked with the 49ers in previous seasons?

Where does that leave James? In a position where he may have to battle for a spot on the roster. He’s versatile, and may spend some time at least this season on special teams returning kickoffs and punts.

Being a second-round draft pick, I believe he will have a fair shot at making the team and I would expect to see him on special teams as he would likely be listed last on the depth chart at running back. However, with some NFL experience he would be valuable to have if Gore or Jacobs ever went down ahead of him.

Brian Spaen is the lead editor for Autzen Zoo, follow the site on Facebook and Twitter. Read his other work on the Iowa State blog, Clones Confidential, and Watson Talk Lacrosse.

Topics: Brandon Jacobs, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, National Football League, Nfl Preseason, Nfl Training Camp, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers

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