Powerful back primed to make an impact

The San Diego Chargers secured the rights to Michael Turner by tabbing him with the highest possible tender, but that doesn't secure his place with the team. As evidenced by the trades of restricted free agents Wes Welker and Matt Schaub, a high tender may be nothing more than leverage for a potential swap. If Turner is moved in a similar deal, the team will seek his replacement on draft day.

Tony Hunt (6-foot-1, 235 lbs.) is the latest in a long line of great running backs from Penn State. During his four years as a Nittany Lion, he ran 654 times for 3,320 yards (5.1-yard average) and 25 touchdowns. He also added 88 receptions for 799 yards and three scores.

Hunt was given second-team All-Big Ten honors following the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He ranks second in school history in terms of career rushing yards and fourth in career yards from scrimmage. Despite all those accomplishments, he knows he must continue to improve if he is to stay in the good graces of pro scouts.

"I hope to improve everything. I want to run well, run hard and do everything that I've been doing in college," said Hunt of his pre-draft objectives.

His first chance to continue wowing scouts came during Senior Bowl week and he did not disappoint. He showed a terrific combination of vision and power and was very effective both running between the tackles and catching the ball out of the backfield. Additionally, he excelled at breaking tackles and was supremely efficient in short-yardage situations.

The one weakness Hunt revealed was a lack of speed. He struggled to turn the corner on outside runs and appeared to lack a second gear. However, any damage that did to his draft stock was undone by his stellar play in the Senior Bowl.

Hunt finished with eight carries for 39 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown, and added two receptions for 13 yards. He was named the Senior Bowl MVP for his exemplary efforts.

"You want to come out and play against top competition and prove that you belong," Hunt said. "That was the main thing, to show that I can play with anybody."

Several teams took notice of his big game. The Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among the teams that set up private meetings with him during Senior Bowl week.

Add the Chargers to the list of interested teams if Turner is put on the block. Hunt's north-and-south running style is similar to Turner's, meaning the rookie could make a seamless transition into a role as Tomlinson's next change-of-pace back.

Whichever team eventually drafts him will be getting a superb player both on and off the field.

"I'm a hardworking, good-character person who is always ready to play," he said.

Even though running back appears to be one of the more underappreciated positions in the NFL, the Chargers know better than any other team the full value of a workhorse back. If Turner runs to greener pastures, Hunt may be the ideal replacement.


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