5 Reasons Why Kendall Hunter Is the San Francisco 49ers RB of the Future
Last season, Anthony Dixon led the NFL in preseason rushing yards. Well that didn't translate to the regular season and Dixon has since been demoted to the No. 3 running back, behind Hunter.
In 2009, Glen Coffee led the NFL in rushing yards. Less then one year later he retired to join the ministry or carry a gun, whichever way you want to look at it.
And Thomas Clayton led all running backs in rushing yards during both the 2007 and 2008 preseason. He is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
So does leading the NFL in preseason rushing yards mean anything?
Not really, as shown by the players I listed above. However, it would seem that Kendall Hunter's performance wasn't a fluke and he is going to be a real stud.
Hunter didn't just look strong running the ball this preseason. He showed great vision, patience and put this mouth in there to block more than once.
Today, I am going to focus on five reasons why he is the San Francisco 49ers running back of the future.
5. It All Comes Down to Production
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Kendall Hunter had one of the most productive college careers in recent NCAA history. He joined NFL greats, Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders, on Oklahoma State's 4,000 yard rushing list. Hunter also earned consensus All-American recognition in 2008 and 2010.
In Kendall Hunter, the 49ers gets a running back that scored 37 touchdowns and averaged well over five yards per carry in a difficult Big 12 conference. This production wasn't just against sub-par collegiate teams.
Last season, Hunter ran for over 210 yards and scored two touchdowns against a solid Nebraska defense that gave up less than 15 points per game in the Big 12 in 2010.
One thing that all great NFL running backs have in common is they have succeeded a great deal in college. While there are other positions where players were not successful in college and came to the NFL and lit it up: Running back isn't one of them. You can go up and down the list of the best running backs in the league right now and you will find one common equation—colllegiate success.
This isn't the case with every position in football. Tom Brady at Michigan is a perfect example of this.
Sometimes you just have to look at production when coming to a conclusion about a certain running back. Hunter proves that he has been an extremely productive running back at every single level he has played.
4. Size Isn't Everything Just Ask Some of the Greatest Running Backs in History
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Coming out of Florida in 1990, Emmitt Smith had many people questioning whether or not he could perform in the NFL. A lot of these questions arose because of his size.
Kendall Hunter is only one inch shorter and weighs just 10 pounds less than the Hall-of-Fame running back. As Emmitt has stated more than once "good things come in small packages".
In fact, size could be extremely beneficial to Kendall Hunter moving forward in the NFL. I noticed the rookie running back using it to his advantage a great deal this preseason. He would get behind blockers in the open field and the defense would lose containment. Hunter's low to the ground running style is going to cause tremendous issues for tacklers.
Size in the NFL is overrated when it comes to running back, this has been proven time and time again. Kendall Hunter will just be another representation of this.
3. Field Vision and "Downhill Running"
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All the great running backs have excellent field vision, this is something that separates them from the rest. And Kendall Hunter has this vision.
I watched a lot of tape on Kendall Hunter heading into the 2011 draft and one thing jumped out to me: he hits holes extremely quick and makes the right cuts at the right times.
This was proven during Hunter's preseason performance with the San Francisco 49ers this year. He doesn't hesitate in the backfield and uses his vision to find the right holes. Too many times running backs lack this vision and end up cutting away from the hole. I rarely see Kendall Hunter doing this.
The following scouting report pretty much mirrors what I just said about Kendall Hunter.
Kendall Hunter is one of my favorite backs heading into the 2011 NFL Draft. He gets to the outside with his speed and anything can happen. He can stop on a dime and get back up to speed instantly. His best attribute would have to be his field vision/awareness. It’s like he has eyes in the back and on the side of his head sometimes.
This really is a huge asset for a NFL running back to have. It enables him to find the hole, make something out of nothing, and not rely on blockers all the time.
2. Jim Harbaugh, Need I Say More?
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"Coach em up" is a slogan that has been utilized around San Francisco headquarters in Santa Clara throughout the off-season and training camp.
A lot has been made of Harbaugh's ability to groom quarterbacks but his offenses have turned out some real good running backs at Stanford.
Of course, Toby Gerhart comes to mind first. He ran for over 3,000 yards and 42 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Stanford.
But Gerhart isn't the only running back to have success in Jim Harbaugh's offenses.
Last year, Stepfan Taylor ran for nearly 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Stanford Cardinal. Proving that Gerhart wasn't a two year wonder for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.
If a running back can get the right coaching and play in the right scheme it really makes a big difference. Look for the 49ers offensive scheme to utilize Kendall Hunter's talents in the best possible manner.
1. You Still Need to Have Talent in Order to Succeed in the NFL.
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Don't be fooled that Kendall Hunter fell to the fourth round of April's draft. Some of the best running backs in the NFL were selected outside of the first round.
Jamaal Charles: 3rd round pick in 2008
Maurice-Jones Drew: 2nd round pick in 2006
Frank Gore: 3rd round pick in 2005
Peyton Hillis: 7th round pick in 2008
Just because a running back wasn't drafted in the first round, it doesn't mean he is lacking talent or ability. There are a lot of factors that go into scouting a running back and sometimes certain players are overlooked.
Hunter did run a 4.42 forty yard dash at the NFL combine and has a 35" vertical jump. These are two indicators that he has the talent necessary to be a star back in the NFL.
However, there are certain things that cannot be measured at the combine.
For example, Hunter is able to shed would be tacklers because he has amazing upper-body strength for such a small back. The fact that he runs low to the ground also increased productivity.
Listen, I am not going to state that Kendall Hunter is going to be an All-Pro running back in the NFL. But I will say that he has the ability to become a premiere back if everything comes together just right.
As of right now, things are looking up for the former Oklahoma State All-American.