Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

Rookie LaMichael James has improved since the start of the 49ers' training camp.

Rookie James says he's ready, and 49ers may call his number

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 - 7:48 am

SANTA CLARA – It's hard to tell someone who can cover 40 yards in four seconds to slow down when he has the ball in his hands, but that's been Frank Gore's advice to rookie LaMichael James.

"It's not how fast you run through the hole; it's about being patient," Gore said Tuesday. "When he used to get the ball, he used to try and just use his speed. I told him he's got to let things develop and be patient. Then, when you see it, that's when you can go fast through the hole."

James – finally – is on the verge of being able to take advantage of Gore's tutoring.

Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke hinted this week the second-round draft pick would get to play – or at least suit up – for an upcoming game for the first time this season.

"That's a real possibility, and he's worked hard for an opportunity," Harbaugh said on KNBR radio Tuesday.

Gore gave his own hints about why James' debut has been delayed.

James was one of the most electric players in college last season, running for 1,805 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns.

But Gore noted that James had plenty of room to roam in Oregon's wide-open offense. In the NFL, those spaces don't exist, and running backs have to make do with a crease here or a small gap there.

"I've seen that he's gotten a lot better from when he first got here until now," Gore said. " … He's gotten better in small spaces. You watch his film in college – there's a lot of big spaces, and the NFL is different.

"Early on, he had a tough time with that, but from when I first saw him, he's gotten a lot better."

When Kendall Hunter, the 49ers' second-leading rusher, went down with an Achilles' injury Nov. 25, the speculation was that James would step in because they have similar speed and profiles. Instead, Brandon Jacobs was the No. 2 tailback in Sunday's loss to the Rams.

Gore said James isn't simply a facsimile of Hunter. At this point in their careers, Gore said, Hunter simply is stronger than the rookie.

"I think he can help," Gore said of James. "But Kendall's a different type of player. They're both fast, but Kendall – it's hard to tackle him, too."

James, meanwhile, admitted it's been difficult to watch from the sideline when he's healthy and that the constant question – why haven't you been playing? – has been annoying. He said he hadn't been told whether he'd be in uniform Sunday against the Dolphins.

"I feel like I can go out there and help the team, and obviously I prep for it each and every week," James said. "Hopefully, I can provide a spark."

Dobbs speaks – Demarcus Dobbs called his arrest Friday morning for suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession a "dumb decision" and vowed it never would happen again.

"The situation could have been a lot worse than it was, and I thank God for looking out for me that night," the defensive end-tight end said. "It's definitely a wake-up call and definitely a situation to learn from."

Dobbs was arrested at 3:45 a.m. Friday after the car he was driving crashed into a chain-link fence in Santa Clara. He was the only one in the vehicle and wasn't hurt.

Harbaugh on Monday indicated that Dobbs, a key member of the special teams, would play Sunday against the Dolphins.

Former Mountain Lions player signs – The 49ers added former Sacramento Mountain Lions linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis to their practice squad. To make room, they released safety Eddie Whitley.

Hoffman-Ellis played under former Washington State head coach Paul Wulff, now an assistant on the 49ers' staff. An undrafted rookie, Hoffman-Ellis spent the offseason with the Rams and was released before the NFL regular season. After that, he played for the UFL's Mountain Lions, where he stood out on special teams.

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