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Harbaugh has other pieces in place to create physical offensive attack

  • San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh watches California quarterback Kevin Riley during the 49ers' local pro day at the NFL football team's training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, April 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Perhaps you've heard: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh inherited a roster with a quarterback problem.

Journeyman David Carr is the only signal-caller under contract, which means the Niners, presently, are without depth or a bona-fide starting NFL quarterback.

That's the bad news.

The good news? That big problem at quarterback is surrounded by big tight ends. And running backs. And linemen.

In fact, San Francisco's industrial-sized offensive personnel was one of the factors that lured Harbaugh to San Francisco from Stanford, where he transformed a Pac-10 pushover into a big-time bully with a power-based, pro-style offense.

"He really liked the roster," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. "He liked how it fit the system he wants to use."

As the Niners ready for this week's NFL Draft, they are clearly ready to do some serious quarterback shopping. The rest of the offense, however, appears to need only moderate tweaking — a third running back here, perhaps a fullback there — to help Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman implement a system similar to what worked so well for them at Stanford.

Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback, but he placed a heavy emphasis on a power running game as head coach at the University of San Diego and then at Stanford.

In his seven seasons there, Harbaugh's teams had five primary running backs — all at least 200 pounds — who accounted for five 1,000-yard seasons. In his four years at Stanford, the Cardinal ran on 58.9 percent of their offensive plays, ranking second behind Oregon (61.0) among Pac-10 teams during his tenure.

Harbaugh, of course, is heralded for his work with quarterbacks. But check out how he works his running backs.


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