Hunter Rounds out Receivers Haul

Torii Hunter's commitment gives Notre Dame four legitimate wide receiver prospects in the 2013 recruiting class. Pending the class's final pledges between now and signing day, each of quartet the pass catchers should remain on the offensive side of scrimmage, including everyone's favorite candidate to switch to defense, the rangy Will Fuller.

Torii Hunter's verbal pledge to Notre Dame over the weekend gives head coach Brian Kelly 21 committed prospects for 2013. With at least one cornerback and one defensive lineman paramount among potential additions over the next two months (in my opinion, they need two of both, but no one inside the program asked me), its likely wide receiver recruitment has concluded in South Bend through National Signing Day.

Hunter joins Philadelphia four-star Will Fuller (Roman Catholic High) as recent additions to March four-star pledges James Onwualu and Corey Robinson.

Both Hunter and Fuller are natural pass-catchers. Both pluck the ball from the air, rather than fight to control it, and both run and change direction fluidly, allowing them to contort and make difficult, contested catches look easy.

Of the pair, its Fuller who seems more likely to change sides of scrimmage on a need basis as Hunter doesn't appear to possess the frame to project to defense at present.

Fuller's greatest skill set, catching the ball at its highest point despite the presence of a defender, is innate -- Notre Dame works on it every day in practice, but for some its a natural strength that others take three to five years to to approach at the BCS level.

Currently listed at 6'1" 170, Fuller has the frame to move to cornerback where his size matches Notre Dame's recruiting profile at the position.

The offensive MVP of July's Top 150 extravaganza, The Opening, Hunter's quickness makes him a slot candidate in South Bend, but at 6'0" he's a potential replacement for T.J. Jones in the X receiver role in 2014 as well.

Luckily for Irish fans, he's not the only one, as Notre Dame will have new blood by way of nine receivers in the 2014 campaign: true freshman Justin Brent (one of two 2014 pledges), sophomores/redshirt-freshmen Hunter, Fuller, Corey Robinson, and James Onwualu, juniors Chris Brown, Davonte Neal, and Justin Ferguson, and senior/redshirt-junior DaVaris Daniels.

At least one more 2014 pledge will likely join Brent, giving receivers coach Mike Denbrock a full crop to work with from 2014 and beyond.

But before we look too far ahead, let's examine where Hunter and Full fit on the 2013 Irish:

2013 Wide Receiver Unit

The 2013 group will feature 11 players: seniors T.J. Jones, Daniel Smith, and Luke Massa, junior DaVaris Daniels, sophomores Davonte' Neal, Chris Brown, and Justin Ferguson, and Hunter's fellow pledges, Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, and James Onwualu.

Of the group, only Jones, Smith, and Massa won't be on hand for 2014, the second season for the incoming quartet of freshmen targets committed in this cycle, and the year they'll likely begin to see major contributions begin from each.

2013 Seniors: T.J. Jones and Daniel Smith: If redshirt-freshman DaVaris Daniels remains in good health and progresses as planned, Jones will likely be the team's secondary target and most experienced, seasoned receiver. Regardless, he'll win a starting job for the fourth straight season and be a prime player in the '13 passing attack. Smith has emerged of late thanks to solid downfield blocking and no drops in limited opportunities (5) through four contests. The South Bend product will remain a part of the rotation next fall regardless of the ascent of players in the program.

2013 Senior/Redshirt-Junior Luke Massa: The former quarterback is not likely to emerge ahead of younger, more fleet-footed pass catchers, especially after April ACL surgery, but Massa ranks as a "program player" for head coach Brian Kelly, one able to help at multiple positions (he's currently signaling in plays, working at wide receiver in practice, and has worked as a holder and member of the punt block team - 2011). Massa will likely join Jones and Smith as classmates playing their final season for Notre Dame in 2013, though he has a redshirt-season available.

2013 Junior DaVaris Daniels: The class's lone representative in the unit thanks to moves to the secondary by cornerback Bennett Jackson and safety Austin Collinsworth, Daniels will be counted on to become a major playmaker in 2013 if not over the next two months this fall. He's been targeted for 12 passes, good for fourth on the squad, despite missing the bulk of the Michigan State game and more than a quarter of the previous week against Purdue due to an ankle sprain.

2013 Sophomores Chris Brown, Davonte' Neal, and Justin Ferguson: Each has played in all four games to date, which means no redshirt is possible, even in the event of injury. Neal is expected to start in the slot next seasons with Brown and Ferguson battling Daniels, Jones, and Smith for the remaining rotation spots. The trio's field experience this fall will make it tough for an incoming freshman to crack the six-deep at receiver in 2013.

2013 Freshmen James Onwualu, Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, and Torii Hunter: The quartet possesses disparate sizes, approaches, body types, and frames set for growth in the Irish strength and conditioning program, but

Hunter is the only three-star alongside a trio of four-stars, but his MVP effort at The Opening opened the possibility for upward mobility in the fruitless pursuit of another star next to his name.

Because his frame and wingspan is reminiscent of current Irish junior cornerback Bennett Jackson, many Irish fans have Fuller slated for a move to the defensive backfield. I feel its based entirely on the development of cornerbacks Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown, and Keivarae Russell over the next six months, as well as the recovery of Lo Wood (eligible through 2014 after Achilles surgery in August) and the potential addition of another cornerback to a class that already includes Rashad Kinlaw and Devin Butler.

As a pure pass-catcher, without due consideration of all other skills needed at the position, Fuller is my No. 1 prospect of the incoming targets. (There's more to the college game than catching the ball and body control, but its worth noting.)

But until Notre Dame is a legitimate three-deep at cornerback with healthy, non-freshman prospects, discretion of movement by the staff and their collection of talent is hardly worth arguing to the contrary.

For our other "Recruit Fit" stories, click the links below:

Jamel James

Alex Anzalone

Michael Deeb

Danny Mattingly

Mike Heuerman

Isaac Rochell

Jaylon Smith

Malik Zaire

John Montelus

Rashad Kinlaw

James Onwualu

Corey Robinson

Offensive Linemen Haul

Jacob Matuska


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