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Finding weapons in returning players

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Kendall Hunter is on the mend, and that bodes well for this offense.

Thearon W. Henderson

The recent news coming out of Santa Clara bodes well for the players returning to practice from assorted injuries. In particular, I am fairly optimistic about Kendall Hunter's return.

Before going down with an injury to his Achilles tendon, Hunter had been an incredibly explosive player. He could pack a proverbial punch by utilizing his small size, lowering his frame and ramming into defenders. Hunter always sought to win the center of gravity battle in a way very similar to Frank Gore's style of play.

And while Gore is still probably the better pure RB on the team - surely he will continue to be the first- and second-down back - in some ways Hunter is (or was - we still have to see how well he comes back from tearing his Achilles) a more versatile player at this point in their respective careers. He has a speed and elusiveness that Gore has lost. He also had excellent vision - something Gore himself knows a thing or two about.

But, the fact remains that this offense, under Colin Kaepernick's watch, will continue to be a power running team that can score from anywhere on the field. Obviously last year, Michael Crabtree was a large part of that. Especially the latter. This year? Well, I hope that Hunter can help fill that void.

This will likely require some creativity from the coaching staff (which, as we all have seen, is not really a problem for this staff). I hope to see Hunter do traditional RB stuff: he should take the rock up the gut, or off-tackle, or pass-block like a pro. But, in addition to this, I'd like to see Hunter moved around the field. He could stretch out wide even, though he seems much more suited to the slot. If Hunter can return to the level at which he was playing before the injury, I imagine he could be a guy that defenses always have to "point at" so that they know where he is every play.