Draft Path: Danielle Hunter

From high school to the NFL Draft, Tiger Sports Digest is giving a deeper look into defensive end prospect Danielle Hunter.

The 2015 NFL Draft runs from Thursday through Saturday, and Tiger Sports Digest is breaking down each LSU prospect – the player’s journey from high school and what he brings to a professional franchise – likely to be selected in the seven rounds.

Next up is junior defensive end Danielle Hunter, an athletic freak who regularly registered tackles for loss but is still tapping into his pass-rushing potential.

HUNTER IN HIGH SCHOOL


A two-way player at Morton Ranch High School in Katy, Tx., Hunter caught a few passes on the offensive side but flashed great promise as a defensive end, although his game was a bit on the raw side as he left the Lone Star State.


Hunter totaled 63 tackles and seven sacks as a junior, following it up with 30 quarterback pressures, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks in his senior season. He also led Morton Ranch to its first Class 5A state playoff appearance.

Largely based off projection, as his statistical production wasn’t exactly through the roof, Hunter was deemed a four-star prospect by Scout and the No. 5 defensive end in the state of Texas.

By the time he left Katy, Hunter, already about 6-foot-4, weighed 220 pounds and ran a 4.9-second 40-yard dash. In the years since he’s dramatically upped the weight and dropped the dash time, all while growing another inch.

Here are two different highlight reels of Hunter in his prep days, first from his junior season of 2010 and then from his senior campaign of 2011.



HUNTER IN COLLEGE


From the moment he stepped on campus, Hunter passed the eyeball test in a way few LSU athletes have in recent years.

Sprouting up to 6-foot-5, Hunter quickly tacked on a lot of muscle and became a mainstay on kickoff coverage teams as a freshman, routinely one of the fastest players down the field in spite of his bigger frame.

He also had the good fortune to sit and learn at defensive end behind Barkevious Mingo (“KeKe”), Sam Montgomery and Lavar Edwards, all future NFL Draft picks. That prevented Hunter from having to learn on-the-job in his rookie season at LSU and prepared him for life after Mingo and Montgomery in 2013.

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2012: Mostly Special Teams – 12 tackles
2013: 57 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks
2014: 73 tackles, 13 TFL, 1.5 sacks

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During that sophomore season Hunter was inserted as a starter in week four and has started every game at defensive end for the Tigers since. He immediately showed an ability to track down ball-carriers from behind, excelling against spread-happy Auburn, and also regularly got to running backs behind the line of scrimmage.

Hunter tallied five quarterback hurries, too, in his second year, serving as an omen for many about what he’d do as a pass-rusher in his junior season.

But that part of Hunter’s game never really came to fruition in 2014 as he posted only 1.5 sacks.

What he did continue to improve on, as a non-vocal leader in LSU’s defense, is tackles for loss, leading the team with 13 and finishing in the top 10 in the SEC in that category. His 12 tackles at Auburn marked the first time at LSU defensive lineman had double-digit stops since Glenn Dorsey in 2006.

For good measure the super-athletic Hunter added a fumble return for six versus Mississippi State and ended his career in purple and gold with nine tackles in the Tigers’ bowl game against Notre Dame.

While in Baton Rouge, Hunter played in 38 games, starting 23 times. He was incredibly durable, never missing a start and only once missing time in-game (this past season with a neck stinger at Texas A&M).

NEXT LEVEL PROJECTION


At the NFL Scouting Combine, Hunter stood 6-foot-5 and weighed 252 pounds. His measurements weeks later at LSU Pro Day were virtually identical.

During his stay at the Combine in Indianapolis, he blazed a 4.57-second time in the 40-yard dash and managed 25 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Hunter tacked on a vertical jump of 36.5 inches during Pro Day.

Other measurable: Arm – 34.25 inches; Hand – 10.5 inches; Wingspan – 82 inches (6-10).

For a complete player evaluation click on the link below, which will take you to a write-up done by Dave-Te’ Thomas, a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League.




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