Mark Richt weighs in on how recent losses have affected recruiting
There are few players across Florida whose recruitment has been harder to parse than Derick Hunter’s. A four-star defensive end in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Hunter has been committed to two different in-state schools. He has put out top-five lists while being committed and talked about how much he loves about half a dozen other schools.
If Hunter gives off the impression he’s indecisive it’s because he has a tough decision to make later this month. Most recruiting services classify Hunter as a “strong-side” defensive end, which means some schools want him to stick at defensive end and others view him as a defensive tackle. In some situations, he might turn into a terrifying edge rusher and in others he could be a dominant run-stuffer.
“It’s one of those things where he’s blessed to be in this situation,” said Sammy Brown, Hunter’s coach at Fort Myers Dunbar High. “He’s put in a lot of time and hard work, and there’s a lot of kids that would love to be in this situation. He just needs to figure out what is he looking for: Does he want to play inside? Does he want to rush the passer? What the depth chart looks like. Do they have your major? Are you going to be in the right setting?
“There’s a couple things that he and his family have to figure out. Football’s the easy part. He’s a guy who can get on the field and wow you.”
Hunter’s relationship with Miami has always been a bit strange. The Hurricanes delivered Hunter one of his first offers early in 2017 and the defensive lineman wound up committing to Miami later in the spring, only to decommit in the fall. Since then, he has flirted with the Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Texas A&M Aggies and Florida State Seminoles, to whom he orally committed in June.
His commitment never exactly seemed binding, though. Even while committed, Hunter put out a top-five list without including Florida State or Miami. Instead, he mentioned teams like the Clemson Tigers, Virginia Cavaliers and Alabama Crimson Tide, none of which seem to be major factors any longer.
The Hurricanes and Seminoles ultimately will host his final two official visits. After he spends this weekend in Coral Gables, Hunter will close out his recruitment with a trip to Tallahassee the weekend of Dec. 15. He then plans to sign with the school of his choice during the three-day early signing period, which opens Dec. 19, and early enroll at the school next month.
Even though Hunter’s thought process can be difficult to pin down, he remains at least something of a top target for Miami heading into the final days of his recruitment. The Hurricanes could use another defensive tackle in this class, and Hunter could be an immediate contributor to help assuage the loss of All-American defensive lineman Gerald Willis. As a senior playing defensive end and defensive tackle for the Tigers, Hunter racked up 64 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound athlete is still relatively new to the position, too.
Hunter arrived at Dunbar as a 6-1, 185-pound wide receiver, Brown said, before a massive growth spurt. For his sophomore year, the Tigers slid Hunter to tight end, then committed to him as a lineman for his junior and senior seasons.
“His body wasn’t there yet, but his heart and his work ethic was together,” Brown said. “He transformed his body. He’s a guy that loves the weight room and he wants to be the best, so he worked at it and perfected his craft.”
Miami was one of the first to identify Hunter’s upside, which was important. So is his proximity to South Florida — Hunter grew up a fan of the Hurricanes, which led to his first commitment.
When he decommitted, Hunter said he was worried he made a decision too quickly because Miami was his dream school. He and Brown have both said Hunter has been up front with coaches throughout the process, even if Hunter’s social media activity doesn’t always suggest it. The Hurricanes’ decision to continue recruiting Hunter backs up the assertions from prospect’s camp. Miami can offer some advantages the other schools he’s considering can’t. Now Hunter has less than two weeks decide what his priorities are.
“That’s the one thing he’s done right. He’s been honest with everybody,” Brown said. “He’s trying to make sure he doesn’t burn any bridges. He wants to make sure does this thing the right way. He can only go to one school. That’s just how it works. You can get 42 offers. You can only pick one school, so he’s got to make the right decision. At the end of the day, he’s got to sit down and be comfortable with his decision. He’s got to make sure this is the right place, the right setting, the right techniques for him to be in the right scheme. Everything has to work out perfectly.”