The San Francisco 49er’s intend to lend strength and versatility to the running back corps. This year more than any other, as the prospect of 49er premier running back Garrison Hearst making a 100% recovery weighs heavily in the shadows.

The focus on the 49er offense needs to stay with the run more than any other program they will carry onto the field, Yes they have one of the most dangerous receiving tandems in the NFL, However this must be the second option.

The 49er’s by surprise are a running team, That is what they do better than any other. If the team wants to muster every inch of success for this year it will come via the run. They led the league in rushing yardage and average yards per carry last year.

The running skeptic’s will always be there some saying we needed to pass more last year because we got behind too early in too many games. However the real remedy would have been to stay with the run, in order to wear defenses down and win back time of possession.

Little be known the offenses most talented player last year was running back Charlie Garner, who shimmied and darted his way to 1,229 yards and an impressive 5.1 yards per carry average. That’s the highest yardage per tote of the top 20 rushers from 1999.

I witnessed Garner’s production last year and was very impressed with his cutting strides and durability to sustain hits a lot of fans and would be one’s doubted his ability to do this.

Running Back Charlie Garner will once again be the main workhorse in this offense with Hearst still sidelined with a foot injury that has shown some positive signs but remains his nemesis, due to blood flow into that area where surgery has been done numerous times to stimulate blood flow.

Garner was signed by the 49er’s as a free agent (06-19-99) and was originally selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft. Since coming over from the east he has blown his prior running records out of the water with Philadelphia in just one year as a 49er, I hope that trend will continue and there is every sign it will be.

The credit for Garner’s success though lies with its offensive line and their ability to create blocking and clear running lanes for him to blow through. They are Ray Brown, Chris Dalman, Greg Clark, Derrick Deese and Dave Fiore; they all return but Dalman who is out for the season with a herniated back disk injury.

I believe Garner is now a premier running back and his production will continue where it left off in 1999, due to the presence of leading fullback Fred Beasley whom is a bruising and hard hitting lead blocker for Garner to follow through a hole.

After finishing last season with career highs in rushing (276) and receiving yards (282). Beasley has emerged, as a key player in the 49er’s offense. “When the 49er’s drafted me, I don’t think they knew what they were getting,” said Beasley. “But I knew. It was just a matter of them giving me the opportunity to show them what I could do.”

I credit Beasley with his outstanding play and knack for becoming the third down go-to-guy at the goal line taking many for a touchdown. He is without a doubt the best blocking and receiving fullback we have had since William Floyd and in my opinion even better.

“Fred Beasley has made dramatic improvements,” said 49er’s Running Backs Coach Tom Rathman, a former 49er’s starting fullback and a member of two Super Bowl champions. “Overall, he’s a key pawn in our game. He’s got the ability. It’s just a matter of him taking advantage of the opportunity, which so far, he’s done.”

Beasley will continue to be a key ingredient to the success of our running backs and has the ability to be that much more as an extra receiving threat, which he has proven over and over again,

He is without a doubt a very rare find in a quality fullback that can do just about anything asked of him. We need to keep him signed and retained for the long haul, as he will without any question continue to excel as a premier athlete in my opinion.

Beasley is very optimistic about this season, even though the depth chart is filled with a plethora of rookies. But in his eyes, once they step onto the field, they’re no longer rookies.

The replacement for Center Chris Dalman will be Jeremy Newberry whom is not as experienced, but is more of an imposing physical player, which could have positive results in the 49er running game by far. This I see happening as the bulk he brings to the center position will be much harder to defend against, and he brings some degree of nastiness to the game.

Running the ball will help a still vulnerable defense, even though improved keeping it off the field and rested will help it in the long run with controlling the game clock on long offensive drives.

Also, the pressure on Quarterback Jeff Garcia will continue to be immense, the running game especially with the array of backs he has will be the safety valve he will need to decrease that well known pressure.

Of the six running backs at our disposal RB Terry Jackson certainly stands out, at 5-11 and 218 pounds he was the 49er’s fifth-round draft pick in 1999. He comes into 2000 as a halfback and is a great ball carrier, and blocker. In his second year with the team he was a pre-season standout and big things will be expected from him, though he suffered a sprained knee his expected return will enhance short yardage situations and create change of pace for workhorse Charlie Garner. Jackson is a versatile running back has played both tailback and fullback in his career, Hs good vision and speed. Played both defense and offense in college out of Florida.

The 49er’s signed Running Back Travis Jervey as a free agent in March 1999, Now it appears he has finally arrived. Jervey is a back-up running back and a special team’s standout, but he spent most of 1999 hobbled with the remnants of a broken left ankle.

He also lost four games on a suspension for violating the league’s policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. He said he used a diet supplement and had not realized it was banned.

“I feel good about things,” Jervey said. “I feel good about my body being back. I know I can play a strong running back again.”

Jervey had an impressive pre-season, he showed he can still be an effective runner he gained 178 yards on 37 carries an average of 4.8 per carry. Jervey is trying to wrestle the No.#2 job behind Charlie Garner away from Terry Jackson, who is also the team’s back-up fullback.

I believe Jervey is an awesome special teams player maybe even a KO/PR as he has amazing quickness and speed that need to be looked into. His presence on the field changes coverage units and realigns defenses.

San Diego State Running Back Jonas Lewis was signed by the 49er’s (4-24-00) as an undrafted free agent after displaying outstanding playmaking skills this pre-season.

His versatility and speed are just what we need in this variety running attack, Lewis really caught my eye as a player that is going to be a pleasant surprise in the form of an elusive and crafty back.

In college he rushed for 2,843 yards in his career, which ranks second in school history behind Marshall Faulk. Named Sporting News First Team All-MWC as senior. Started six games as a senior, rushed for 812 yards a and two touchdowns on 152 carries, grabbed 11 receptions for 44 yards, and returned five kickoffs for 122 yards.

2000 Draft Pick Paul Smith in the fifth round is still awaiting to make an impact on this years team, out due to a right calf injury that will hopefully be healed very soon.

Paul Smith comes from Texas-El Paso and is a powerful, elusive runner capable of running through tacklers, showing explosiveness between tackles and quick around the end.

Also is a good receiver out of the backfield, with great open field vision, timed at 4:55 in 40-yard dash.

His contribution to this talented and young running back corps. Will be greatly anticipated and special teams will also be a starting point for this athlete.

And then there is The Great One Running Back Garrison Hearst whom is still on The Physically unable to Perform list due to his excruciating injury on Jan. 9, 1999 his foot caught in the Georgia Dome turf, as he was dragged down by Atlanta defenders. His fibula snapped and his left ankle twisted grotesquely.

“I remember turning around and trying to keep him down on the ground,” said guard Ray Brown. “I knew something was very wrong. It was a bad deal and we were ready to go to the Super Bowl that year.”

Hearst, whom still resides in Atlanta during the off-season, is still not able to run but has made progress since undergoing a second operation May 6th to stimulate blood flow to his ankle in an attempt to reverse any bone decay.

Hearst is a true fighter though and I have every reason to believe he will do whatever he can to make it back onto the playing field, if it is in medical and physical capability.

Throughout the ordeal, Hearst has remained a presence in the locker room and a source of encouragement. “He’s at every meeting. He still comes on the trips,” Mariucci said. “It’s great that he’s around because everybody loves the guy. He’s one of those guys that adds chemistry to a team. He’s funny. He’s loud. He’s got this silly, cackling laugh that is the most irritating thing you’ve ever heard and I love it. He’s a class act.”

The greatest challenge facing Hearst is that after going through rehabilitation, there is no guarantee he’ll ever be able to play again. This must be the most agonizing question in Hearst’s mind as he witnesses every game as one he should be in on.

The depression and anxiety have to sometimes be overwhelming for such a superior athlete to be relegated to sitting on the sideline constantly reminded of the injury that plagues him.

To someday see Garrison Hearst back out on the field No#20 running with the wind behind his back would be pure heaven in my mind, to possibly have him in conjunction with Charlie Garner would be heaven-sent. That would be the most powerful running back tandem in the league today.

I am a huge fan of Garrison Hearst and I am proud of this franchise that continues to hold onto a hope that Hearst will still be a factor someday. Many others would have waived or cut someone like this, especially with this type of pro-longed injury.

Hearst’s leg fracture healed within six weeks, but team doctors later made the shocking discovery that a bone in his ankle was deteriorating.

“At this time, we felt it was what it was, a fractured fibula, and it was going to heal within six weeks, which it did,” Mariucci said. “It’s fine. That bone is terrific. It healed right on time. It was the talus bone that degenerated. And it didn’t show up on any X-ray or MRI until later because it was a gradual degeneration. It’s a freaky thing.”

Garrison Hearst was at the top of his career when he went down last year, and certainly coming into his own, all of a sudden his world was turned upside down a and sideways never to be the same for a long time to come.

I pray every day that Hearst will beat the odds and is able to take the field again in all his 49er glory, that in itself would be a humbling sight to finally behold.

With this running back contingent certainly we can once again take the lead and sustain it in the NFL, we have some awesome and versatile talent that is just awaiting to explode on the field. As we are continuing to rebuild they will be relied on heavily to carry the offensive load, we need to continue to redefine our running game and provide them with a confident and strong offensive line that will block and create holes for them to run in.

That is paramount to all offensive philosophies in my opinion, you offense must start and stay with the run, it wins time of possession and wears a defense down to exhaustion.

Completing passes and throwing downfield to win huge chunks of yardage is but a bonus in our arsenal that we are not afraid to use and yes use frequently.

And we should when game strategy and evaluation permits that we have to, however the running game builds the character of the offensive line and their abilities to work closely as a well defined team, this is what winning teams are all about.