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D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

49ers TE George Kittle impressed with RBs Trey Sermon, Elijah Mitchell

May 25, 2021 at 5:08 PM--

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Maybe it's a good thing the 49ers drafted two running backs after all.

When the 49ers made the decision to select running back Trey Sermon in the third round and running back Elijah Mitchell in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, it felt a bit strange at the time given the fact they already had veterans Jeff Wilson, Raheem Mostert, and Wayne Gallman as part of their running back room. But with news surfacing Tuesday that Wilson could be sidelined for as long as six months due to a torn meniscus, Sermon and Mitchell now carry an added importance for the 2021 season.

Fortunately, the reviews for Sermon and Mitchell have been positive to this point. Mitchell was singled out earlier this month by beat reporter Matt Maiocco as a player who stood out during rookie minicamp, and on Tuesday, tight end George Kittle offered glowing reviews of both running backs.

Sermon in particular has made an impression on Kittle, starting with what Kittle saw from him last season at Ohio State. Sermon had a breakthrough performance with a school-record 331 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the 2020 Big Ten Football Championship Game against Northwestern, then followed it up with 193 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards, and one touchdown in a playoff win over Clemson.

"I'm a huge fan of Trey, just watching him in the playoffs and the Big Ten Championship game," Kittle told reporters Tuesday. "He's such an aggressive runner. He's a big body. He just likes to run through people, but he still has a finesse to his game, which is awesome to see. He's a fast guy that runs downhill, and I love that in this offense."

Mitchell wasn't as widely publicized in college as Sermon, having split carries at the University of Louisiana. He finished his senior season with 878 yards and eight touchdowns on 141 carries. But he seems to be showing well in Santa Clara so far, which is good news given the injury situation.

"Elijah's been great. Just seeing the routes and the reps that he's gotten running the rock, he looks really good too," Kittle said.

The 49ers have had their share of injury issues at running back in recent years, which is one reason head coach Kyle Shanahan cited earlier this month as a justification for drafting two of them. It's unfortunate that those injury issues will continue into the start of the 2021 season, but there remains a number of talented candidates to choose from, thanks in large part to the presence of Sermon and Mitchell.

"I'm excited about our running back room," Kittle said. "That's a crowded room too. When it's crowded, it breeds competition. That's what it's all about."


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