Thursday, Indianapolis signed cornerback Darrell Hunter to the practice squad. Hunter played college ball for Miami (OH) and was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2006 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He bounced back and forth between the Cardinals' 53-man roster and the practice squad last season, often ending up on the team's inactive list on game day. He was released by the Cardinals on Aug. 31, signed to Tampa's practice squad on Oct. 31 and subsequently released on Nov. 12.
At first glance, it seems a little puzzling that no one took a chance on Hunter coming out of school. He has the measurables that most teams look for at the position (5 feet, 11 inches, 206 pounds) and while he doesn't have blazing speed (4.48 in the 40), he's still fast enough to contribute on special teams and in substitution packages.
The book on Hunter heading into the 2006 Scouting Combine was, since he was lacking in the areas of technique and tools, he would need to run in the 4.3s in the 40-yard dash to be considered on draft day.
Although the Mid-American Conference has gained momentum and respect in the college football ranks the past 20 years, it is still a conference that features a lower level of competition than the BCS conferences. The thinking was, and still is, that Hunter was able to fall back on his athletic superiority on Saturdays and thus never refined his technique and footwork. He is also considered to be a liability in run support.
AP Photo/Matt York
However, a closer look at the numbers, as well as the man himself, paints a different picture. His time in the 10-yard dash (1.56) and the 20-yard dash (2.62) are almost identical to two men that no one in their right mind would refer to as slow — Devin Hester (1.58, 2.61) and Tye Hill (1.58, 2.60). In a scheme like Tony Dungy's, short-area quickness is more important than top-end speed and Hunter seems to have that quickness. And having come to Indianapolis from Tampa, he's also already somewhat familiar with what is expected of a cornerback in the Tampa 2 system.
Additionally, he has something on his resume that most practice squad players do not: At least some experience at the NFL level on the regular roster. With the recent signing up Keiwan Ratliff, he is unlikely to make the team this season, barring further injuries. He now has the time and training to refine his technique, bolster himself to support in the running game, and learn the playbook.
At some point, with hard work and determination, he may became the player it was thought he could be when he left Miami (OH): Someone who can contribute on special teams and in the occasional sub package.