Tracking ‘Big-Game' Hunter

Gabriel Hunter doesn't have to blow his horn to induce herds of college coaches to follow closely behind, all it takes for him to gain instant admiration is a look at the mind-blowing statistics or eye-popping highlights from his hallmark junior season at Memphis-Kingsbury.

Better yet check out his game against Memphis Raleigh-Eygpt when he ran for 375 yards and four touchdowns. If that doesn't convince you of his legitimacy pop in the video tape from his next game against Munford when he amassed 436 yards and five touchdowns. That's a total of 811 yards and nine touchdowns in two games. That yardage total falls just short of a half a mile and the nine touchdowns represent a 27-point average over two games. Thus IT dubs Gabriel as Big-Game Hunter.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound back has a very distinctive and instinctive running style that relies on great vision, an acute ability to change direction, outstanding body lean, superb balance and an uncanny knack for bouncing off tackles. He has 4.50 speed, good strength, a nifty stutter-step and he knows how to finish a carry. He is also durable and tough. His season totals from 2007 were a state-high 2,694 yards rushing with 24 touchdowns.

Perhaps the man who knows him best as a player is Kingsbury head coach Duron Sutton, a ten-year veteran who has taken the Falcons to seven state playoffs entering his ninth season as head coach. He offered this appraisal of his star running back during an interview with Inside Tennessee on Tuesday.

"He's very competitive," Sutton said. "He wants to be the best at what he does. He doesn't want anybody to top him or outshine him at what he does so he puts his best foot forward every time he steps on the field. The best attribute he brings to his running back position is his vision. He has great vision. He sees what he sees and hits it on the run. There's not a lot of wasted motion because once he sees his hole he hits it and runs. That's why we say to our guys ‘just because a run is not designed to come your way doesn't mean that you do not block because he may come back your way.'"

His cutback ability could make an effective weapon in the SEC where speed defenses tend to over pursue in their attempts to disrupt timing and swarm the ball. That helps explain why Gabriel Hunter has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee.

"Auburn is probably going to offer him in the next couple of days," Sutton said. "He's got a lot of good offers. Besides the SEC teams I know he has offers from Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Louisville and Memphis. Like I say he's got a lot of offers. That's some of the ones I can remember."

Hunter wants to announce his decision before the start of his senior season at Kingsbury.

In addition to the attention he's getting as part of the recruiting process, he can expect even more from opposing defenses this fall.

"Our base formation is the I-formation, but we do come out of it and run a spread," Sutton explained. "He gets a lot of action either way. If they're really stacking up we'll get more one-on-one opportunities and if they're playing us more traditional we like to use him out of the I. You want the ball in your best player's hands and he is clearly my best player. We've got to figure different ways to get him the ball."

Using him as a receiver out of the backfield is a viable option the Falcons intend to deploy.

"He catches the ball extremely well," Sutton said. "He'll catch more passes this year simply because we're going use him in a lot of different ways because I know people are going to stack on him. We use him as a solo back when we spread out."

However Gabriel Hunter is used he'll succeed because he plays with rare passion and has a gift for finding gaps. In short: he's the type of back that drives defenses crazy.

"He's got strength but what it is he's just a natural," Sutton said. "He's not overly strong, he's not overly fast, he's just a natural running back. There's not a whole lot on my part that has gotten him the yards that he's got. I don't take any credit for it."

No, Hunter doesn't have great size. He may lack that extra gear in open field that makes offensive coordinators salivate, or the strength to lift a condo, but hand him the ball and he's pure magic.

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