Frank Gore is the 49ers' starting running back, there's no two ways about it. After four carries against the New Orleans Saints, his day was done, and the coaching staff had seen what they needed to. Gore will make things roll, and you can bet the game would have been different if he'd been able to stay in. Of course, him staying in wouldn't have made any sense, and a loss here doesn't matter in the slightest.
Naturally, there's a war waging for the backup position, between second-year player Anthony Dixon and rookie Kendall Hunter. Dixon was the backup to Gore in the game on Friday, and he was ... less-than stellar. You guys know I'm a huge fan of Dixon and what he does on Twitter, but I was not impressed with him on Friday. He had 16 yards off of 7 rushing attempts, with a long of four.
It seemed like every time he had the ball in his hand, he slowed down. That was a problem last year, but it actually looks as though he regressed. There was virtually no burst off the line of scrimmage, and there was no vision to find the hole. At one point, he caught a screen pass and instead of carrying his motion forward, he stopped, danced a little, and lost two yards. In essence, it was extremely frustrating to watch, because we all know that he's a powerful runner with a stellar stiff arm. Dixon never gave himself a chance to do that.
On the flip-side, Kendall Hunter's first run went for 13-yards. He didn't dazzle, but he got tough yardage and showed vision beyond what I expected. I saw him change direction fluidly and he showed a great burst. In the end, he only had 29 yards off of 7 carries, but it's how he looked out there. It's hard to call him NFL-ready at this point, but he impressed in the preseason and could use a bigger look in games two-through-four.
My money is on Hunter becoming the full backup, simply because I think he's coming out of college with more steam than Dixon did. That doesn't mean Dixon is doomed to mediocrity or anything like that, we've seen a lot of good things from him, and this is far from over, but after one game, Hunter has definitely looked better.