Gore made to be main man in Martz offense

He'll be working for his fourth offensive coordinator in four years, but what's that mean for Frank Gore? Gore became the first rookie in 15 years to lead the 49ers in rushing under Mike McCarthy in 2005, became a Pro Bowl starter the next year under Norv Turner, then had another productive season last year under Jim Hostler. But now that Mike Martz is in charge, Gore says the best is yet to come.

Gore admitted this spring that it's not the optimum situation for a running back of his pedigree and skill to have to start over again and learn a new offensive system with a new coordinator, which is something Gore has had to do in each of his four seasons since entering the NFL with the 49ers.

But there is starting over, and then there is starting over with a guy such as Martz running the show.

"It's tough," Gore said. "But working with a guy who's had a lot of success in this league, that's been a head coach in this league, it make you really want to work for him and listen to him. Because you know that he really knows what's going on."

Gore, like most of San Francisco's offensive players, never had that feeling last year with Hostler, who was unable to build upon - or even maintain, for that matter - the momentum the offense carried into 2007 after a year of rising promise under Turner's direction. Instead, the San Francisco attack took a nosedive south, finishing last in the NFL in eight offensive categories with historically bad numbers.

But while the 49ers were finishing last in the NFL in total offense, last in scoring and last in the eyes of analysts everywhere, Gore was quietly fighting through an ankle injury that forced him to miss one game and hampered him in others to assemble a fine season - particularly considering he was the only thing the offense really had going right for it the entire year and truly was a marked man every time he stepped on the field.

Gore doesn't see that happening now that Martz is at the controls.

"I mean, this is going to be a fun offense," Gore said. "We're going to be spreading the ball around. We have a lot of sets, doing two backs, motion everybody out, we go empty (backfield). This year, we won't see eight, nine men in the box no more. I like it like that, you know?

Yes, Frank, we know.

Even with defenses stacked to stop him with multiple defenders crowding the line because they had absolutely no respect for San Francisco's anemic passing game, Gore still finished fifth in the NFC with 1,102 yards rushing last year, averaging a respectable 4.2 yards a pop. He also led the 49ers in receptions with 53 and produced 1,538 yards from scrimmage.

This came a year after Gore had captured the attention of defensive coordinators throughout the NFL with a breakout 2006 season during which he led the NFC with a franchise-record 1,695 yards rushing and led the 49ers with a career-high 61 receptions.

With the progress both he and the offense made during Turner's one season as 49ers offensive coordinator - Turner left the team in February of last year to become head coach of the San Diego Chargers - Gore boldly stated goals of challenging for NFL records and breaking the 2,000-yard rushing barrier in 2007.

After the humbling experience of last season in Hostler's extremely rocky debut as a NFL coordinator, Gore uses no numbers in talking about his goals this season. But that's not to say his goals aren't big.

"I don' t want to put no numbers out there," Gore said. "I just want to go out there, have fun, play hard and try to win some games, hopefully go back to the Pro Bowl. And that's what this offense is about. It's going to be a fun offense."

And, just like he has been in the past two incarnations of San Francisco's offense, Gore will be the main man in that attack.

"The potential to build that offense around Frank Gore is pretty exciting," Martz said. "He's really a complete player, and that's hard to find in this league anymore. I think you can put him as the centerpiece and build around that."

Gore looked like the centerpiece during the 49ers' spring minicamp earlier this month, lining up as the single back in a variety of formation and slashing through the line with the ball cradled in his chest.

But that was just the half of it. Gore also could be seen going in motion to leave an empty backfield, lining up in the slot and in wing positions along the line, and even splitting out wide in some formations.

In other words, he's not just going to be a running back in the Martz offense. He's also going to be a pass-catcher.

And Gore, for one, is all for that.

"I'm touching the ball more in the passing game and getting out in the slot running routes and showing people I can run routes, showing them I can catch the ball very well running routes out of the backfield," Gore said. "People don't know I can do that. It's going to be a surprise to a lot of people."

The natural comparison observers make is that Gore is Martz's new version of Marshall Faulk, and naturally that's all right with Gore. Gore already has spoken with Faulk several times, with Faulk offering Gore help any time he needs it, even saying he was willing to meet up with Gore when Gore is training at the 49ers facility in California or at his home in Miami.

Gore is soaking up whatever tips he can get from Faulk, because that's the prototype for the position he's now playing.

"(Martz) will use me in the same way," Gore said. "All the success that he's had with other guys, like Marshall … I want to be a guy that one day (Martz) can go tell other people that he once coached Frank Gore."



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