For the next few months, GatorCountry.com will be previewing the players that will make up the 2012 Florida football team as we lead up to the season.
Each day, we’ll count off a scholarship player until the season officially arrives on Sept. 1 with a home date against Bowling Green.
Today, we take a look at senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter.
Hunter arrived at Florida expected to contribute immediately. A former Under Armour All-American and five-star prospect, the defensive tackle was hailed early on as the “Tim Tebow of the defense” as a freshman by then head coach Urban Meyer.
However, after dressing for eight games as a true freshman and seeing very limited action in three, Hunter redshirted. He became a big contributor as a redshirt freshman, starting 11 of Florida’s 14 games in a 13-1 2009 campaign. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
Hunter saw his starts decrease over the next two seasons, starting six games in 2010 and just one in 2011. His role diminished as Jaye Howard emerged as a dominant defensive tackle and Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd began to contribute.
|Omar Hunter Career Statistics|
Hunter is coming off his most productive year statistically. Despite starting just one game, Hunter played enough to rack up 31 tackles. He also notched 2.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Though his production hasn’t quite matched the hype he had coming into Florida, Hunter has developed into a solid player up front defensively. He has good size at 6 foot 1, 314 pounds. His lack of burst through the middle makes him more suited to playing the run than the pass.
Hunter has good fundamentals in terms of hand placement, but his lack of elite burst up front keeps him from being a very disruptive force. He can hold the point of attack effectively, but he rarely makes plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Lower-body strength training could help improve this aspect of Hunter’s game, so what kind of impact new strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman’s Olympic-style lifting approach has on Hunter will be intriguing.
If nothing else, he is a solid but unspectacular contributor who can hold his gaps effectively to allow teammates to make plays.
What to Expect
With Howard gone, Hunter likely will step into a starting role. Due to Ronald Powell’s ACL tear, the Gators may move Easley outside to defensive end sooner rather than later as Will Muschamp has hinted, which would virtually ensure Hunter of a starting role.
Since he doesn’t have the burst Howard had through the middle, Hunter will play the run-stuffing role. That will allow either Easley or Floyd to slide into the role of getting after the passer from the middle.
Expect similar numbers from Hunter in 2012, even though he should see more playing time as a starter along the defensive front.