Torii Hunter, Jr. has won a pair of team awards in his two seasons with the program. He’s also battled two setbacks that inhibited his ability to make a major impact prior to this, his junior campaign.
First injured in a high school all-star game practice at the outset of 2013, Hunter’s long road to recovery from a broken femur culminated in a Scout Team Player of the Year Award at Notre Dame’s post-season banquet following his freshman season.
One year later – and just four months removed from a torn groin muscle suffered in training camp prior to his sophomore season – Hunter took home the squad’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year award at the same banquet to conclude 2014.
Now in good health and with a full dose of off-season and spring reps in his arsenal, Hunter looks to make a weekly on-field impact for the first time as part of a deep, youth-filled receiving corps.
Hunter takes advantage of fellow slot receiver C.J. Prosise’s success in the Irish backfield and becomes a key component in the passing game. If Notre Dame features a more run-oriented power game this fall, the wide receiver unit should nevertheless feature six regular competitors and Hunter’s strong August Camp cements a role among that group.
Hunter’s versatility results in dual backup duties: in the slot, and behind Will Fuller at the X receiver spot, a role won by default during the spring by sophomore Corey Holmes.
Considered a special teams weapon prior to his broken leg in January 2013, Hunter returns to contribute to the kick and/or punt return units as well.
Prosise and Amir Carlisle man the slot well enough that Hunter is relegated to spot contributor inside. As a result, Hunter takes his place behind Fuller at the X position, but Notre Dame’s top target rarely leaves the field, thus allowing little opportunity for Hunter to make an impression.
With the offense moving to more of a run-first approach, the default sixth receiver’s impact is mitigated.
Hunter’s seven reception, 67-yard, 1-TD effort as a redshirt freshman is similar to than that of teammate C.J. Prosise, who after a freshman season redshirt, likewise corralled seven passes as a rookie while gaining 72 yards.
Hunter, Prosise, and DaVaris Daniels comprise the trio of future wide receivers to first redshirt then later contribute under Kelly, though under disparate circumstances: Hunter’s was injury related, Prosise shuffled between dog linebacker and safety in 2012 before switching to offense in the winter, and Daniels continually flirted with playing time throughout 2011.
Fifth-year graduate senior Matthias Farley was likewise a redshirted receiver (slot) as a Kelly-era freshman but he moved to safety following his rookie year.
Hunter turned heads with an MVP performance at The Opening in July 2012 prior to his senior prep season. That effort earned a four-star moniker per Scout.com and a No. 41 national ranking at the position for the Prosper High School (Prosper, TX) product.
A broken femur suffered during practice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 1, 2013 ended Hunter’s chance at field time as a collegiate freshman, but by the time Notre Dame reached August Camp 2014, Hunter had impressed head coach Brian Kelly with his playmaking skills.
Thereafter, an early-camp groin injury further delayed his collegiate debut before Hunter hit the field – and pay dirt – one month into the 2014 season in a 31-15 victory over Syracuse at the New Meadowlands.
Hunter’s early career receives a mulligan – his performance over the next two seasons will determine if a fifth is part of the equation in South Bend.
Hunter’s seven-reception rookie season was highlighted by a Sept. 26 debut effort against Syracuse in which he earned two (Jet Sweep) carries for 13 yards and also recorded his first reception, a 13-yard touchdown catch on a short crossing route from Everett Golson.
Hunter followed that effort with a two-catch, 24-yard game against Stanford one week later. The latter of his two 12-yard gains helped move the chains with the Irish offense facing third-and-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
"It's a matter of getting him on the field because you gotta take Fuller off the field to get him on the field. 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." – Kelly last season on Hunter’s quest for regular playing time.