Hunter's Return Could be Big Boost for 49ers

Running back appears strong and fit as he comes back from a missed season because of knee injury

In a recent video posted by the 49ers, running back Kendall Hunter is shown going through a high-speed drill, churning his legs and feet. He’s changing directions and cutting quickly. There is absolutely no indication that Hunter is anything less than 100 percent healthy.

And for the 49ers, that’s great news.

Hunter, who served as Frank Gore’s No. 1 backup over his first three seasons (2011-2013), tore his ACL early in training camp last July and was lost for the season.

The 49ers missed Hunter’s quickness and change of pace during an 8-8 season. In the three seasons previous, he’d been an excellent contributor, averaging 4.6 yards per carry while scoring seven touchdowns.

Now, Hunter is fit again, taking part in offseason workouts and being counted on to be part of a three-headed running back attack with newly acquired Reggie Bush and Carlos Hyde, who is entering his second season.

Though the 49ers likely will miss Gore – who left in free agency – the team hopes to get as much cumulative production out of its trio. Certainly with Hunter and Bush, the running back corps may in fact be a bit quicker than it was in 2014.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, for one, thinks the threesome will be fine.

“We have Kendall coming back, who a lot of people forget about,” he told reporters recently. “Carlos had a great rookie year for us and we’ll probably be using him a lot more this year. We’ve brought Reggie in, who’s another great weapon on offense.”

It’s possible the 49ers may also bring in another running back through the draft, too, but general manager Trent Baalke seems excited about Hunter’s return. 

“He has progressed very well,” Baalke recently said of Hunter’s health. “Talk about a guy that works. … He’s a grinder.”

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