The San Francisco 49ers lost a competitor for punt returner with Jarryd Hayne's departure, but the team still has a handful of options. Head coach Chip Kelly met with the media on Tuesday and said that the position competition includes Bruce Ellington, DeAndrew White, DeAndre Smelter, DuJuan Harris, and Bryce Treggs.
Ellington was the primary punt returner last season with 19 returns, with Hayne second with eight returns. Reggie Bush returned two punts, and DeAndrew White returned one. I imagine Ellington is the early front-runner for the position given his experience. At the same time, I find it particularly intriguing that Smelter is getting work back there. By all accounts his ACL recovery is coming along well, but this is a particularly notable sign. And, I have to say, watching a man of that size potentially returning points would be fun.
We won't get a better idea of the return competition until training camp gets going. OTAs are non-contact and no full pads. Players can work on catching punts, but even that is limited without the full pressure of the opposing special teams units. So for now, we at least know the people competing for the role.