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Verdict out on Niners rookie James

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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By Dan Arkush

Is LaMichael James, the Niners’ surprise second-round selection in this year’s draft, who ranked second in the nation in total rushing yards (1,805) in his final season at Oregon, definitely considered the heir apparent to Frank Gore?

Not so fast, our team insiders tell us.

“I don’t know if he is the next Gore,” said one close team observer. “He’s not a guy who’s going to run through tacklers 3-4 times a game like Gore does. Now, maybe the combination of James and (Kendall) Hunter can give you that dimension.”

Just how much will James play initially?

“It’s up to him,” the observer said. “I think they’re definitely going to want him to return kicks and see how he develops as a return guy and what he shows from scrimmage. His skills and style are very similar to those of Hunter. His production (at Oregon) was outrageous, and he stayed pretty healthy. But there are no guarantees. Is he another Darren Sproles or another Dexter McCluster? We’ll see.”

Sources close to the team agree that James’ presence might not bode well for Ted Ginn Jr., the team’s current kick returner, who has not provided much help at wide receiver, or newly acquired Brandon Jacobs or second-year man Anthony Dixon, in what has all of a sudden become a very crowded backfield.

“One thing with Jacobs is that he doesn’t play special teams,” the source said. “The other thing is how sick he supposedly has become of being tackled below the knees all the time, which has made him more tentative. He might really have to wow them in order to make this team.”

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