Hunter Adds to Irish Aerial Attack

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's offense does not want for weapons, but one more might yet work his way into the fray as the 2014 season hits the home stretch.

To date, 11 different Notre Dame players have scored touchdowns and excluding quarterback Everett Golson from that total, eight of the 10 to hit pay dirt have done so at least once through the air, including all six participating wide receivers.

That includes redshirt-freshman Torii Hunter, whose first career catch was good for six points in a Sept. 27 win over Syracuse in the New Meadowlands.

"It felt good," said Hunter of the debut score. "I had the goal in mind, I would tell everybody that if I got the opportunity, I was going to score on my first (catch). It happened. I kind of spoke it into existence."

It happened after a torn groin muscle kept him from all but two practices of August camp and the first three contests of the 2014 season -- this after losing his true freshman year to a broken femur suffered a week before his future school, Notre Dame, would play for the national championship.

It's been a long road back, and Hunter admits he didn't feel he'd completed the recovery process until more than 18 months after snapping his femur at the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

"In spring (2014), I wasn't really all the way myself," Hunter said. "I didn't feel as quick or as fast as I normally am. Those first two days of (August) camp I felt really healthy. I felt like I was moving a lot quicker. I worked a lot on my routes and getting off press man. I guess they showed those first two days."

His head coach took notice, as Brian Kelly repeatedly praised Hunter's effort near the outset of August and throughout camp despite the receiver's absence.

"When I hit the ground, I was like, 'Not again.' I didn't know how severe it was but I knew I was going to miss some time," said Hunter of the groin injury that occurred in the third practice of August camp. "It was kind of frustrating. Frustration all over again. I knew I was going to get another opportunity to play. Kept my head high, went through rehab, and made it back."

Playing time following his Syracuse debut has been sporadic. Hunter secured two receptions in a tight contest against Stanford one week later but was shut out, and targeted for just one pass combined, against North Carolina and Florida State. He worked his way back into the fold for one catch on his only targeted pass against Navy prior to last week's loss to Arizona State. But Tempe brought more playing time and a pair of receptions (again, targeted just twice) against the Sun Devils.

Kelly wants to get Hunter on the field, but the redshirt-freshman technically backs up the offense's best playmaker, classmate Will Fuller.

"It's a matter of getting him on the field because you gotta take Fuller off the field to get him on the field," said Kelly. "We're going to cross-train (Fuller) in all three positions this week. We're going to try to give him even more work at "Z" (slot) and "W" (boundary side) because we like what we see.  We don't necessarily want to take Will off the field to get him on the field."

Hunter made sure Kelly saw him as a potential weapon upon his return.

"When i came back, I just started working harder in practice, making sure that he still had his eye on me, so that whenever he did give me an opportunity to try to take advantage of it," Hunter said.

He'll now try to take advantage of positional work at three similar, though not close to identical spots.

"Working to the short side of the field (W), there's a lot of one-on-one battles," said Hunter. "You're working against (a lot of) press man. To the field (X), that's what I'm used to. The Z (slot) you have to play with a lot of speed, play a lot stronger because you have to go against sam defenders, mike linebackers, stuff like that. So you have to play more physical with a lot more speed."

That versatility should help Hunter round out a six-pack of targets for Golson -- each of whom returns next fall -- as the 2014 season draws to a close.

Passing Targets: Game-by-Game

A review of Golson's pass targets on a weekly basis (Note, Golson has officially thrown 334 passes. The total of 343 below includes both accepted and declined interference penalties; the latter is not officially counted by the NCAA.)

Games played in order: Rice, Michigan, Purdue, Syracuse, Stanford, UNC, FSU, Navy, ASU:

Will Fuller (52 rec. 694 yards, 10 TD: 5, 12, 8, 8, 8, 13, 10, 4, 10 -- 78 Targets (Includes 7 drawn pass interference/holding penalties)
Corey Robinson (32-450-4): 2, 2, 7, 10, 7, 4, 12, 3, 7 -- 54 Targets (2 PI drawn; includes negated TD vs. FSU)
Chris Brown (24-337-1): 2, 4, 5, 8, 7, 5, 6, 4, 3 -- 44 Targets (3 drawn pass interference/holds)
C.J. Prosise (21-379-2): 2, 3, 7, 5, 2, 2, 12, 2, 5 -- 40 Targets
Ben Koyack (25-267-2): 5, 4, 6, 3, 2, 3, 5, 6, 4 -- 38 Targets
Amir Carlisle (19-273-3): 2, 7, 3, 0, 8, 5, 4, 1, 5 -- 35 Targets
Tarean Folston (12-166-1): 0, 0, 2, 2, 1, 6, 2, 2, 2 -- 17 Targets
Cam McDaniel (9-76-0): 1, 2, 0, 3, 2, 2, 0, 1, 1 -- 12 Targets
Torii Hunter (6-58-1): 0, 0, 0, 1, 2, 1, 0?, 1, 2 -- 7 Targets
Greg Bryant (5-50): 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 1 -- 5 Targets
Durham Smythe (1-7): 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1 -- 1 Target
Intentionally Thrown-away (no official target): 12 (including 6 vs. Stanford)


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