Hunt has sights set on top spot

Akeem Hunt has shown his potential through two seasons, but just in spurts. Now, the junior is vying to win the top spot on Purdue's running back depth chart. He first must prove his abilities to the new coaching staff.

Not long after Purdue's annual spring game, which saw Akeem Hunt steal the show to the tune of 134 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Rob Henry was asked whether the running back can be the become more than just a role player this season.

Without a bit of hesitation, Henry responded with strong sentiments.

"I never looked at Akeem as not being an every-down back," Henry said. "Akeem, despite not being the biggest guy on the field, always runs hard. That's something that I've always thought made him a good player."

As a true freshman, Hunt made a big impact averaging 8.7 yards per carry. In his second season, he posted an even eight yards per touch. Still, he remained buried on the depth chart.

This season, Hunt wears No. 1 on his chest—switching from his familiar No. 11—and hopes to have a ‘1' next to his spot on the depth chart. Coach Darrell Hazell hopes to see a few improvements made first.

"The key for him is to get stronger in the offseason and continue to learn the game," Hazell said on Saturday. "Where he is right now, I think he's going to be pretty special if he keeps working at it."

Challenge accepted. Hunt is eager to improve this offseason, with a focus on adding strength.

"I'm really motivated," Hunt said. "Day in and day out, I'm doing push-ups, if I'm not in the weight room. I'm taking protein shakes, trying to get bigger but keep my speed."

Hunt has given a strong sampling of his potential through two seasons, though those have only come in glimpses. He has served as a role player behind the starter. Even so, Hunt made quite the impression on his teammates. The running back's style has earned him plenty of respect and a ringing endorsement.

"He's always full speed, he's never hesitant," Henry said. "Sometimes, you'll get a [running] back that's maybe 250 pounds but tiptoes into the hole. Akeem hasn't done that. He always runs full speed and seems to fall forward. I've always looked at Akeem as an every-down back. He's going to be a great player for us this fall."

For Hunt to earn the top spot for Purdue, he must work to become stronger, all while proving he's more than just a one-trick pony.

"I just want to be an every-day back and run between the tackles," Hunt said, "instead of just doing speed sweeps."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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