Rookie 49ers running back loses weight, gains confidence

When the 49ers selected Joe Williams in the fourth round of this year’s draft, many wondered if head coach Kyle Shanahan had found his next dynamic running back.

When the offseason program rolled around, the product from the University of Utah was out of shape, unready for life in the NFL. And that’s not a read from journalists — general manager  John Lynch said so during a radio appearance on KNBR.

“I thought I was in shape just because I was doing a lot of stuff for the combine and pro day,” Williams explained Friday. “But being out here with guys who’ve been eight, nine, 10 years in the league, who really have their bodies in shape mentally and physically. I wasn’t there yet.”

So Williams stayed in Santa Clara after the rookie minicamps and OTAs and worked with strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright and his staff.

Training camp hasn’t been a tour de force so far, but Williams has steadily improved following the day off on Tuesday and his coach has taken notice, but he won’t get carried away just yet.

“Especially with the younger guys, they’ve got to learn the speed of the game, how to practice.” Shanahan said.

“A lot of these guys haven’t hit like that in practice, some guys don’t know how to practice without pads which was more OTAs and earlier on. Joe, he got a couple good looks [Thursday], which sometimes that’s what they need to spring a little bit of confidence. We’re always hoping it will click because we know he’s got some ability.”

jpalmer@sfexaminer.com

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