Since 1995 when Ricky Water departed the 49ers have been scrambling to create a backfield that was actually a threat. It seemed last year that they had found the key that would unlock the missing piece of the puzzle. Of course I a refering to Garrison Hearst. A speedy back with adequate hands, great cutting ability and the naturaly ability to find the open whole. He William Floyd and Terry Kirby complimented each other masterfully.
One problem. Both William Floyd and Terry Kirby are no longer with the team. Floyd took off to division rival Carolina, for a little more money, and the 49ers let go of Terry Kirby because they felt it was unfair to keep a back of that quality on the bench. This was par Kirby's request, and for the record, has not signed with anyone yet, and if thing go a little weird he could end up back with the 49ers for less money.
Now the 49ers are left with Garrison Hearst, their leader in the backfield, Marc Edwards a FB in his second year of the NFL, Chuck Levy, an explosive back, who has added some bulk this year to compliment his speed and wide receiver hands, and lastly Fred Beasely, a rookie who the 49ers drafted in the sixth round and is almost assured a spot behind Edwards even though he is a little undersized. The 49ers also signed undrafted rookie Pepe Pearson among other, a man with backup capabilities but would really need to fight to make the starting team this year.
Third and three, the 49ers need a quick three. They know they aren't going to try one of those stupid 3 yard passes, so where do they go?? Well firstly there is Garrison himself. This may seem ludicrous because of his history of injuries and exposing him to more playing time may only hinder his performance, but idealy he is the man the 49ers would like to see carry the ball every time they elect to. Then there is Marc Edwards who is a harder, faster runner, with better hands then hid predesessor William Floyd. Edwards size and speed may get him this role, but the 49ers will probably learn quickly that he is just an average running back, unless of course Edwards can prove me wrong, he is most likely not the man the 49ers will use.
Then there is Chuck Levy, who may just be the fastest player on the team, not to mention his incredible hands. Levy's ability to break a long run, will get him a long look as the 49ers third down back. However he is small, even though he has bulked up a bit and is only around 210 pounds. So what happens when he needs to block? The next option is Fred Beasely, and undersized full back who is a little to slow to be an all around running back. He may fit the role really well, but his inexperience in the 49ers complicated offense will almost surely hold him bacl. Lastly there is Pepe Pearson. A running back with great enthusiasm, good size and speed. He is deffinately back up material. However much like Beasely he is a rookie and probably wont be able to take in the whole offense and third down offense in one offseason.
The 49ers are stuck. Training camp will almost surely descide who will be the third down back. However the 49ers may be over looking a serious possibility. Why bother designateing a third down back. Use them mainly Levy and Edwards in a rotation throughout the game. Fresh legs are always a bonus when playing any sport as is the element of surprise or confusion. If a different back comes in on third downs, how will other teams defenses figure out what the 49ers are going to do next? However in order to do this, the 49ers can't fall into a habit of having some backs run only certain plays. This would work as a dissadvantage, almost telling the other team what they are planning to do. It's still third and three, time is ticking, who do the 49ers send in behind Steve Young?