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D.J. Harper looks even faster on the blue turf at Boise State.
D.J. Harper is a very good running back out of Boise State. Unfortunately, barring injuries to other 49er running backs ahead of him, Harper is caught in a numbers game that he will have trouble winning.
The 49ers already have Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Anthony Dixon and Jewel Hampton on the roster. They also drafted the highly touted Marcus Lattimore, who is likely to spend the season on IR in order to allow his knee to fully heal.
Gore is the unquestioned starter, so the keys to Harper's future are intertwined with the other backs. Hunter, who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury is vulnerable. If he has trouble recovering completely or is hurt again, that will be one less running back to compete against Harper.
James played well in 2012, after Hunter's injury. He also showed a good burst as the 49ers' kickoff returner, following the injury to Ted Ginn Jr.. James is extremely explosive, and if he stays healthy, will be ahead of the rest of the stable of 49ers backs.
Dixon has learned to play fullback in addition to his normal halfback position. This makes him valuable as a backup to starting fullback Bruce Miller. Davis is also one of the 49ers' best special teams players, so it would be hard to envision him cut.
Hampton was on the 49ers practice squad last season. He impressed enough to warrant getting another opportunity in 2013. The 49ers like Hampton and he is ahead of Harper, as well.
Harper carried the ball 228 times in his senior season at Boise State. He gained 1,137 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
Harper is a nice player, but when the music stops, he's unlikely to get a seat.