Does a nice job making himself small through creases inside and always seems to be falling forward despite his size. Looks really comfortable on perimeter runs, picking his way through traffic and quickly planting his foot in the ground and accelerating toward daylight. Possesses good speed and does a great job accelerating out of his breaks. He’s a two-stepper who reaches top-end speed quickly.
Now, he will get caught dancing a bit too much at times behind the line and lacks the type of power to simply lower his shoulder and grind out tough yards inside. Can be wrapped up easily in a phone booth and isn’t a guy who will be able to run through many tacklers at the next level. However, his low pad level and balance allows him to stay on his feet through contact and at times bounce his way toward the sideline. Isn’t a real physical blocker and doesn’t have the type of lower body power to consistently anchor in blitz pick-up. However, does have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He isn’t a real clean route runner at this stage, but can be a threat in the pass game.
Impression: When the guy is 100% healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic backs in college football. He’s shifty, explosive and has a great feel for tight areas. Looks like a guy who can be a threat both in space and between the tackles at the next level, and in my opinion is one of the top three senior running back prospects in the nation."
Hunter brings speed and explosiveness to the table.
Hunter came in immediately and made an impact for Oklahoma State, however. In 2007 he rushed for nearly 700 yards on just 107 carries. He followed it up starting every game in 2008 with a 1,555 yard performance as a true sophomore. But 2009 was a bit different after Hunter missed six weeks with an ankle sprain, and never fully recovered from it the rest of the season. Hunter’s 2010 resurgence quieted down the haters, however, and he’s not being looked at as a Top 5 running back in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Hunter is a very quick back, and he plays much bigger than his size. For being a 200 pound running back, he carries his weight quite well, and doesn’t let his solid build slow him down. Hunter has exceptional vision and patience in the backfield always letting his blockers set up. He’s a surprisingly good runner between the tackles, hitting the hole with command, and the Oklahoma State offense really complimented him. Some will say that the wide splits with the offensive lineman opened up more holes for Hunter, but you can only play with what you have. Hunter is a quick back who catches well out of the backfield, and is one of the best pass protectors in the 2011 NFL Draft from a running back standpoint. He has the speed to turn the corner and is dangerous in space with his quick feet and agility.
Some consider Hunter to be merely a scat back. I say otherwise. While Hunter isn’t going to be a workhorse (25-30 carries) guy, he’s going to be handle 15 touches a game, and make plays. His durability is going to be a concern as ankle sprains tend to come back and nag players, and it seemed that Hunter had lost a step in 2010, despite his excellent numbers. Playing in a wide open spread offense at Oklahoma State could be a concern as that offense is designed to give the players an opportunity in space. Hunter hasn’t had to work as much in short yardage situations, or pound the ball in those situations. His straight line speed has been a question mark, but we will find out more at the NFL Combine.
In a draft that features a log jam deciding the true running back rankings, it’s going to be tough to get a precise draft range. He’s an early second round talent, but teams are finding quality runners in the mid rounds, which is hurting the draft stock of all running backs. Still, I see Hunter coming off the board no earlier than pick 35, and no later than pick 60. Teams like Cincinnati, Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Green Bay seem like the most logical choices, although a few of those teams already have a solid #1 runner. He’ll be best in a two back system, so it’s still possible that he’s drafted in that range, with Indianapolis and Green Bay making the most sense.
NFL Comparison: Ray Rice"
Positive: Elusive and creative ball carrier with a variety of skill. Runs with a compact style, quick footed and sets up defenders then makes defenders miss. Easily bounces around tackles, will pick and choose his way on the inside, and squirms through the small openings of the defense. Displays terrific running vision, instincts and follows blocks everywhere on the field. Possesses the speed and agility to beat defenders around the corner, can turn it on a single step, and shows a burst of speed. Patiently waits for blocks to develop and does an outstanding job following them. Natural receiver out of the backfield and effectively adjusts to errant throws.
Negative: Lacks strength in his running and easily brought down by the first defender. Limited by a lack of growth potential.
Analysis: Hunter was a complete back on the college level and produced any time he handled the ball. He projects as a third-down back/rotational player at the next level and should be very effective in that role."
Negatives: Small frame, upper body looks thin... Doesn't break a ton of long runs, only has one run over 30 yards in 261 carries this year... Limited around the goal line because of his size, won't run through NFL defenders... Below average in pass protection, doesn't set his feet and gets run over... Missed most of the 2009 season with an ankle injury... Likely not an every down back... Dances with his feet too much, would like to see him get up the field quicker... More quick than fast, doesn't have great long speed."
Weaknesses: Not big and doesn't have the frame to add weight. Has been banged up. Has great speed but is mainly an inside runner; his size may be an issue on the inside when it comes to durability and pushing the pile.
Projection: Likely a high-mid second round pick. May not be a 20 carry per-game back, but is a complete player who can stay on the field all three downs and will be a dynamic weapon. Likely will begin as a third down/change-of-pace back but could become a starter down the road. Has magic."
At 5-8 and 190 pounds, Hunter is obviously smaller than an NFL team would like from an every down back. That would make him a change of pace back at the next level and NFL teams wanted to see if he could stay healthy throughout the 2009 season. He did not. In mid-September, Hunter suffered an ankle injury and only played in eight games. When he did come back from injury, Hunter was not at full strength and he ended the season with just 382 rushing yards on 89 carries.
The injury forced Hunter to return to school for his senior season and he has had great success. Not only has he stayed healthy for the first ten games of the season, but he has put up some superb numbers. On 226 carries, Hunter has rushed for 1,356 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has been less involved in the receiving game this year, but he has returned some kickoffs and has proven that he can be a workhorse despite his small size. OSU's success this season has put Hunter back in the spotlight and his stock is quickly rising and he could be a second or third round selection."
Now that he has been able to recover fully from the ankle injury that plagued him as a junior, he has produced a breakout senior season despite playing behind an average offensive line and often having to make a move just to escape beyond the line of scrimmage. If he had better hands and was more advanced in pass protection, he could fit into the second round."
Kendall Hunter is a very dangerous weapon. He's not particularly powerfull between the Tackles, but is absolutely devastating outside of them: Great Burst, exceptional Fluidity, and tremendous Lateral Agility and Instincts.
Not a very good Blocker at this point, but has potential as a Receiver.
In my efforts to organize RB's by their styles, I've invented the terms "Smashers", "Slashers", + "Thrashers" as what I hope will be easy references, respectively, to Power Backs, 3rd Down Backs, and Hybrids. "Tail Back" and "Half Back" are used too interchangeably, and in any case, a 3rd term is needed, for there are 3 distinct types.
I'm going to call Kendall Hunter a Slasher. He could definitely do some work InSide, but his strengths are clearly on the Perimeter.
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