The San Francisco 49ers’ abundant stable of running backs took a crucial hit Saturday morning when running back Kendall Hunter was diagnosed with a torn ACL.
The injury, which was confirmed by CSN Insider Matt Maiocco early this morning, occurred during practice yesterday as Hunter tried to get around CB Perrish Cox.
It appears Hunter will not see the field at all in 2014 for the 49ers’ inaugural season in Levi’s Stadium.
Hunter entered camp as the favorite to backup Frank Gore due to his knowledge of Greg Roman’s system and blocking ability.
But the injury means younger, unproven talent — like second-round pick Carlos Hyde and 2013 fourth-rounder Marcus Lattimore — now move up in line toward the important spot of No. 2 running back.
Hunter gained 358 yards on 78 carries for three touchdowns during a 2013 season in which he played 16 games.
Hunter, who joined the team in 2011 after being selected in the fourth round, is no stranger to serious injuries. He missed the final five games of the 2012 season with a partial tear of his Achilles tendon.
Lattimore is still rehabbing his left knee and hamstring and has yet to take part in training camp. Hyde and LaMichael James will see an increase in snaps when the pads go on for the first time Saturday.
Lattimore, who is currently on the non-football injury list, is expected to return soon. Uncertainty continues to swirl around whether he will be able to fully recover from his gruesome knee injury, even after sitting out all of 2013.
But both Hyde and James can begin to make a solid case for themselves in the upcoming days.
Hyde projects to be the favorite to win the role. The 49ers hope the Ohio State product can eventually be groomed into Gore’s heir apparent.
At 6-feet tall and 235 pounds — with ability to run through tackles with both power and speed — Hyde’s skill set and physical attributes mirror Gore’s most closely.
After a frustrating 2013 season for James, in which he publicly voiced his disproval at his lack of playing time, many thought the Oregon product could be on the chopping block heading into camp.
However, James has shown himself as the 49ers’ only solid return man in recent weeks, almost assuring he will stay on the roster.