SANTA CLARA (AP) — Even as a senior, Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde learned a few things from talented freshman Ezekiel Elliott before entering the 2014 draft.
Elliott taught Hyde the value of being an asset without the ball in his hands.
Running backs as talented as Hyde, who ran for 3,198 yards in college, get notoriety for making tacklers miss. Hyde appreciates Elliott for showing him how to make defenders miss his teammates by throwing blocks downfield.
“He came in and set the tone with that,” said Hyde, “without the ball, running down the field, throwing a cut block. ... He changed our (running backs) room at Ohio State with that.”
Elliott went on to get drafted fourth overall by the Dallas Cowboys last spring, in part because of his complete skill set. Not only did he eclipse Hyde’s Ohio State rushing total by 763 yards in three seasons (Hyde played four), Elliott was widely considered the best blocking back in the 2016 draft.
“He’s not a guy that you have to take off the field,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said of Elliott. “He’s got speed. He’s got power. You know, he’s kind of the best combination. ... and I think everybody agreed, that he was the top back in the draft last year.”
Elliott entered the NFL two years after Hyde was taken in the second round by the 49ers. They square off Sunday at Levi’s Stadium when Dallas (2-1) visits San Francisco (1-2).
For the season, Elliott has 274 yards rushing on 71 carries with one touchdown. His former teammate has four touchdowns with 225 yards on 58 carries for San Francisco.
Hyde said he hasn’t paid attention to the fact he’s playing against his college pupil. After all, he’s going against Dallas’ 10th-ranked rushing defense, while Elliott will be looking to make his mark against a 49ers defense that allowed 947 yards combined in its consecutive losses to Carolina and Seattle.
But Hyde’s All-Pro teammate NaVorro Bowman thinks the game Sunday has personal meaning for the running back.
“I think Carlos had (Elliott) underneath his wing for sure at Ohio State,” Bowman said. “So he can’t let the young guy get the best of the game. I think Carlos will be holding this one special in his heart.”
Ohio State won a national championship during Hyde’s rookie season with San Francisco. Hyde made sure to be on the sideline during the championship game against Oregon that January after the 49ers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
The Buckeyes rolled 42-20, with Elliott setting a season high with 246 yards rushing and four touchdowns. It was the third straight game Elliott had at least 200 yards.
“When I was there, (Elliott) was in the room with us and my position coach, coach (Stan Drayton), made us feel like a family in that room. . . . It was just exciting to see that,” Hyde said.
NOTES: 49ers TE Vance McDonald (hip) returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session. ... CB Jimmie Ward missed practice (quadriceps) for the second straight day. ... Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (knee), QB Tony Romo (back), LT Tyron Smith (back) and G La’el Collins (toe) have not practiced this week.
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