In the Film Room: Omar Hunter

I began to follow national recruiting during the 2005 season. In that period of time I have seen just a few defensive tackles who I absolutely loved. I felt each one of those players at some point was going to be a dominator. Those individuals are Gerald McCoy, Marvin Austin, Torrey Davis, and Omar Hunter.

Notre Dame got themselves a tremendous player the day that Omar Hunter committed. Few players over the last three years combine his bulk, strength, quickness, and ability to dominate both phases of the game.

SIZE/PHYSIQUE
One knock on Omar is his lack of great height. I've seen him listed at both 6-1 and 6-2. His height will not hinder him any way, but when you talked to the "scouts," they talk about wanting guys like Gerald McCoy (6-4) and Torrey Davis (6-5). If I might borrow an expression from my childhood "there are many ways to skin a cat." For every 6-4 to 6-6 defensive tackle who dominates (Richard Seymour, Haloti Ngata, Marcus Stroud, Gerard Warren, Ted Washington, Sam Adams) I'll show you a 6-0 or 6-1 guy who also dominates (Casey Hampton, Mike Patterson, Anthony McFarland, Kelly Gregg, Dewayne Robertson, Claude Wroten).

Hunter has big, thick legs, long arms, and a naturally low center of gravity. As mentioned, his height isn't great but it's plenty good enough. He has a very strong base, which will allow him to hold firm against the many double teams that will surely come his way.

TECHNIQUE
I like Omar's stance at the line of scrimmage. He has a good, relaxed, flat stance. His stance isn't high and he isn't sinking down. He has a nice base and is able to explode off that ball at the snap and get up-field with little wasted motion. At the snap he comes off low, fast, and under control. There are times where he'll lean a bit too much and be out of control, but those instances are few. Although his lack of height might hurt him in the national rankings I feel it plays well into his game. Hunter comes off the ball and uses his height to his advantage. He is able to come off the ball, be the low man, and get inside of the blocker(s). Once this is accomplished the offensive lineman stands little chance at winning the battle. Using good leverage, a solid base, great strength, and outstanding quickness Omar is able to get a great push at the line of scrimmage.

Hand play is so crucial for interior linemen on both sides of the ball. Hunter has very strong and quick hands. He has a tremendous swim move, which he uses versus the run and the pass. When he shoots his hands and engages he is able to extend the blocker, which allows him to shed to the ball carrier. His ability to "push-pull," combined with good quickness and strength, is what allows him to shed blockers with relative ease. There are times of inconsistency here, which will be coached up, but overall this is a strength in Hunter's game.

At times the Georgia star will engage high with the lineman. Although this is common among high school linemen, he'll have to keep working to be more consistent. When he comes off properly he is virtually unstoppable at the high school level. Hunter also needs to learn to wrap up better. He relies too much on grabbing quarterbacks and just throwing or pulling them to the ground. In college he won't be able to get away with this nearly as often. He must learn to be better in space, come to balance, and wrap up the ball carrier. This is more of an issue when pressuring the quarterback. When coming off to attack ball carriers he is much surer in his tackling. There are times when the Buford star takes poor angles to the football. Again, this is a technique issue that can be improved and corrected with coaching.

VERSUS THE RUN
A phrase that has been and will continue to be discussed among Notre Dame fans is the "two-gap versus one-gap" defensive tackle. Hunter has the ability to be effective in both departments. He shoots the gaps quickly and is extremely disruptive. Ask any offensive line coach in the country and they will tell you they must stop the defensive line from getting penetration. Defensive penetration throws off the run game, the timing of the offense, and blows up a play. This is a forte of Omar Hunter. He is able to consistently reset the line of scrimmage in the favor of the defense. He is also very strong at the point of attack. Two-gap linemen are supposed to keep multiple blockers occupied and to protect the linebackers. What separates the good ones from the great ones are the ability to still make plays. He is able to hold up against double teams, shed the block, and then make a play.

VERSUS THE PASS
Most nose guards aren't great pass rushers. It's not their responsibility to rush the passer. Their job is to disrupt the interior blockers, keep them occupied, and collapse the pocket. That frees up the ends and the blitzing linebackers to make the sacks. Hunter is outstanding at disrupting the interior of the offensive line. But again, one thing that separates the good ones from the great ones is the ability to get to the quarterback. This excites me about Hunter. He has great potential as a pass rusher. Right now he has two great moves to get to the quarterback. He uses speed and a great swim move to penetrate quickly and beat the lineman. At that point Hunter is great at closing on the quarterback. This is his dominant move right now. He is also able to bull rush the center, shed him, and explode to the quarterback. He'll have to learn another move or two, but right now he shows great pass rush ability.

ATHLETIC ABILITY
You don't find many 6-2, 297-pound defensive tackles with such a great first step. Hunter has tremendous initial quickness and burst up-field. He has great balance and a second gear that is very rare for a defensive tackle. Hunter is also a tremendously strong player for a high school junior. He combines great lower and upper body strength. Many fans talk about Notre Dame's lack of intensity, fire, and that nasty attitude on defense. This won't be a problem when Omar Hunter is on the football field. He is a very nasty player who looks to knock people out and has a motor that never quits. I discussed earlier how quick and strong Hunter's hands are. At times he struggles to change directions. What I can't determine is whether it's due to stiff hips or the fact he goes so hard and so fast he isn't able to break down on the ball carrier or quarterback.

OVERVIEW
Omar Hunter has the size, strength, and ability to take on blockers to be a very good true "two-gap" player. He also has the athleticism, quickness, and explosiveness to shoot gaps, get in the backfield, disrupt the run game, and pressure the quarterback. This is a very rare combination. It's also what separates him from every other defensive tackle in this class. He will go a long way towards increasing Notre Dame's sack totals. He might not get a ton himself, but is so good at getting penetration that he will flush quarterbacks from the pocket and into the arms of the ends and linebackers.

There are a bunch of very good defensive tackles in this class. Guys like Marcus Forston, DeAngelo Tyson, DaQuan Bowers, Sean Cwyner, and Jarvis Humphrey make this a very deep, big, and talented class. Omar Hunter is the cream of the crop. No other player in this class combines the size, strength, athletic ability, explosiveness, and production.


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