SANTA CLARA, Calif. - A new coaching staff and a missing mentor have things feeling a little bit unusual for Carlos Hyde in 2015.
"I just talked to Frank (Gore) a couple days ago," Hyde said. "I told him things are different. Things aren’t the same like when he was here."
The San Francisco 49ers second-year running back is expected to become the offense's new bell cow, with the unenviable task of trying to replace an iconic figure in the franchise's history in Frank Gore.
After a decade in a gold helmet, Gore is San Francisco's all-time leading rusher with 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason after being close to an agreement with the Philadelphia Eagles when the negotiation window for free agency initially opened last month. Ultimately, he decided to align himself with Andrew Luck in Indy.
Hyde, who ran for 333 yards with four touchdowns in 2014, has a long way to go to make a mark anywhere close to Gore's.
Before he starts to try, he thought he'd lose a little weight.
"Running backs like me are known to be fat at the end (of the offseason)," Hyde joked Wednesday before the second practice of the team's voluntary minicamp. "I’m trying to stay away from that."
Hyde is down to 228 after spending his rookie year at 235, the same weight he played at during his four years at Ohio State. He said being lighter doesn't feel much different when he runs, but hopes it can keep his legs fresher throughout the rigors of the long season, particularly if he's getting the bulk of the carries.
As a rookie, Hyde averaged less than six attempts per game. In retrospect, he would have liked more, but didn't think he played particularly well in 2014 when he averaged 4.0 yards per carry.
"I felt like last year I was being too quick on the plays, not letting the plays develop," said Hyde. "I was missing reads. Just be patient this year, let the play develop. When an opportunity presents itself, hit it."
Hyde said patience as a runner was the most important thing Gore taught him last season, which comes as no surprise. During his prolonged career, Gore's been known as one of the most patient backs in the NFL with a knack for setting up his blocks and letting plays develop before squeaking through holes.
Hyde had a different approach as a rookie: try to hit the hole as quickly and violently as he could, which didn't always work. The rookie had six games in which he averaged less than three yards per carry.
His role will be expanded in the coming season under new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, who was Colin Kaepernick's quarterback's coach in 2014. Under former offensive coordinator Greg Roman, 49ers running backs were typically at the bottom of the league in receptions, which is a dimension in the offense that could change this year. "I think year we'll definitely hone into that," Hyde said.
Having to take on the Seattle Seahawks twice each season, Chryst and the rest of his staff likely paid close attention to the New England Patriots' game plan in February's Super Bowl. Tom Brady hit running back Shane Vareen on a number of underneath routes that took advantage of the Seahawks' aggressive front seven. Vareen finished with 11 catches, including a number of key first downs in the 28-24 win.
With Gore gone, Hyde finds himself in the unfamiliar role of mentor to newcomer Jarryd Hayne, the former Autralian Rugby star who signed with the 49ers this offseason, hoping to crack into the league as a kick returner and running back.
"You can tell he’s definitely going to run the ball hard," Hyde said of Hayne. "Rugby definitely got him right, so he’s going to be ready when we put the pads on."
In the early going of the Hayne's new career, perhaps Hyde's message to the rookie will be about patience, as Gore's lesson was to him.