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49ers Lose Kendall Hunter to torn ACL; Time for Carlos Hyde to Step Up

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Sadly, Hunter was entering a contract year after a promising first three seasons. Hopefully, he'll recover from this and still get a decent contract offer next offseason.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have become one of the NFL's premiere franchises again since Jim Harbaugh took over. His ground-and-pound style to go with a physical defense has helped them win double-digit games in each of his three seasons, including a Super Bowl berth.

One quite contributor during that time has been running back Kendall Hunter. He's gained 1,202 yards on 262 attempts (4.6 per carry) in his first three seasons in the NFL to go with 27 catches for 268 yards (9.9 per catch). He and Frank Gore have been a nice 1-2 punch for the 49ers, but that won't be the case in 2014.

Hunter suffered an injury during training camp that is reportedly a torn ACL, according to The Mercury News.

Hunter tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Friday at practice, the team confirmed Saturday morning.

Hunter has served as the top understudy to Frank Gore since breaking into the league in 2011, aside from missing the final two months of the 2012 season with a torn Achilles.

Hunter was entering the final season of his rookie contract. He was hurt catching a swing pass from Blaine Gabbert in 7-on-7, non-contact drills. Hunter’s knee buckled as cornerback Perrish Cox closed in on the play.

This means rookie second-round running back Carlos Hyde will need to take on a heavier workload in 2014 than originally anticipated. Even if Gore remains the starter all year, he's entering the final year of his contract.

Sadly, so was Hunter. Hopefully, he'll recover from this and still get a decent contract offer next offseason. In the meantime, Hyde will be counted on to be the No. 2 guy, if not the No. 1 back at some point in 2014. The Bengals actually had the chance to go with the home-grown product out of Ohio State, but opted instead to go with LSU's Jeremy Hill.

The 6'0", 235-pound Hyde rushed for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs in 2013, when he became the first-ever Urban Meyer-coached running back to crack the 1,000-yard barrier. He rushed for 100 yards in each of Ohio State's final nine games and had two 200-yard outings, including a 246-yard, four-TD performance against Illinois in which he averaged 10.3 yards per carry.