San Francisco 49ers: 4 Players Who Will Challenge Veterans for Starting Gigs
The San Francisco 49ers are bringing back most of their starters from last year's overachieving team, but that doesn't mean the faces on the starting lineup are set for the 2012 campaign.
Besides the newly acquired free agents, several young players will be entering training camp to challenge veterans for the right to start.
And given the high competition level that these younglings bring, they could very well earn a spot on the starting lineup.
Kendall Hunter RB
Kendall Hunter is a speedy little back with plenty of upside despite his small stature. He doesn't have the vision that Frank Gore has to find running holes, but when Hunter is given the ball in space he's a terror. He wasn't a big time receiving running back in college, although he has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and cut up field effectively.
While Hunter isn't quite on Gore's level just yet, he can certainly make things interesting come training camp time. The two will surely bring out the best in each other as they fight for the number one spot.
It would be a stretch to name Hunter the starter to begin the 2012 campaign. Although as the season drags on it's not farfetched to believe that Hunter would get a few starts thrown his way as the 29-year-old Gore rests up.
Chris Culliver CB
Chris Culliver put together a decent season last year despite not starting a single game. He was the third leading tackler among cornerbacks with 33 solo tackles to go along with his seven pass deflections.
At the moment he is still just the third cornerback on the depth chart, but he will be looking to battle it out with Tarrell Brown for the right to become the second starting cornerback.
If it weren't for a few late picks to end the season by Brown, the two would have very similar numbers. And while he isn't a reliable option to defend opposing team's number one receiver, he can still be a solid piece on defense.
Daniel Kilgore G
With the loss of Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal, the right guard position is ripe for the taking. Entering his second year in the NFL, Daniel Kilgore could easily snatch up the starting job.
San Francisco drafted two offensive linemen with Joe Looney in the fourth round and Jason Slowey in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. It would be too shaky to start a rookie on the offensive line that was drafted past the third round this early on. The rookie linemen are still not quite ready to be counted on to protect the quarterback just yet.
Kilgore on the other hand could fill the void at right guard nicely.
The fifth-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft only appeared in one game last season, but since Kilgore has one year under his belt he is the best option at the moment. At age 24 he is currently the second oldest guard on the roster right behind Mike Iupati. The experience from watching the game last season should give him a leg up on his younger competition.
Aldon Smith LB
Aldon Smith is hands down the top rookie from last year that will challenge veterans for a starting spot on defense. He exploded onto the scene last season with 14 sacks and zero starts.
He has shown to be an excellent pass-rusher, but his defense against the pass is not as great. However, that isn't enough reason to hold back Smith from challenging Parys Haralson for the outside linebacker position.
Given the opportunity to take more shots at opposing quarterbacks, Smith should have an even better second year with the 49ers.