Rookie Kendall Hunter led the 49ers in rushing during the exhibition season. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The 49ers say Frank Gore is “good to go” for Sunday’s game in Philadelphia against the Eagles.
But should Gore – who suffered a twisted ankle when tackled early in the second quarter of Sunday’s victory over the Bengals – be unable to play, or if the Niners need some fresh legs at running back to give their offense a jolt, rookie Kendall Hunter appears ready to make an impact.
The fourth-round pick from Oklahoma State carried the ball nine times for 26 yards and scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run against Cincinnati in San Francisco’s 13-8 victory. He also caught two passes for 12 yards.
Monday, coach Jim Harbaugh told the San Francisco Chronicle that Hunter “graded out very well” against the Bengals.
“Kendall’s a good player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s the backup tailback.”
At Oklahoma State, Hunter was more than just a good player. He was a two-time All-America selection who rushed for more than 4,000 yards for the Cowboys. Playing in the Big 12 against top competition, he scored 37 TDs and averaged more than 5 yards per carry.
Though only 5-foot-7 and 199 pounds, Hunter showed quickness, speed and power in college. Wrote one scout before the 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.”
Because of his size and breakaway abilities, Hunter often was compared to another Oklahoma State great, Barry Sanders. Hunter also has had to prove naysayers – who say he’s too small – wrong.
Having dropped into the fourth round of the draft, Hunter said in April it just gives him more fuel to succeed.
“I always have a chip on my shoulder ever since I started playing the game,” he told the media after being taken by San Francisco. “People doubted me that I can’t do this or that, size and stuff like that. I play every game with a chip on my shoulder. I use it as motivation.”