For the 49ers, the running back position has provided plenty of ammunition for headlines and debate in recent weeks.
How much longer can Frank Gore keep going? Will Marcus Lattimore take his job? What about rookie second-rounder Carlos Hyde? And what will they do with 2012 second-rounder LaMichael James?
Lost in most of the discussion and debate has been veteran Kendall Hunter. The primary backup to Gore since 2011, Hunter enters the final year of his rookie contract with the trust of the coaching staff, as explained by Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. Maiocco points out that the 49ers still have a high opinion of Hunter, who averages 4.6 yards per carry and thoroughly understands the team’s pass protections.
And so he’ll remain the primary backup until one of the younger tailbacks can knock him off his perch. Which means that before Lattimore and Hyde can topple Gore, they’ll need to leapfrog Hunter.
Meanwhile, why do the 49ers have so many tailbacks? At some point, a five-man depth chart will get thinned. Unless the roster moves include placing one or more of the running backs on injured reserve, this means that someone is going to be released or traded, eventually.