It’s about four months until the 2016 season begins and less than 10 months until the recruiting class of 2017 can sign their National Letters of Intent. With fierce recruiting battles underway for the top recruits in the country, it’s a good time to get to know the players who appear poised to become college football stars in the near future. So far, we’ve analyzed Najee Harris, Dylan Moses and DeAngelo Gibbs, the top-rated recruits in the class of 2017, according to Scout.com. This week, it’s Devon Hunter, the No. 4 player in the class.
Rank: No. 4 overall, No. 3 athlete
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 206 lbs
High School: Chesapeake, Va.
Commitment status: Uncommitted
Scouting evaluation (from Scout.com)
Hunter can do it all on the football field. He is big, strong and athletic. He has great speed and is extremely physical. Hunter shows good concentration and has good ball skills. He is also smart and puts himself in position to make plays. Hunter has the ability to play quarterback, running back, wide receiver and safety. He is one of the top prospects in his class.
Though Hunter has yet to commit to a school, there is an abundance of them hoping to land his pledge. Hunter, who counts more than 30 reported scholarship offers, spoke with Scout.com about his recruitment at The Opening Regional event in Charlotte, N.C., last weekend. He told analyst Michael Clark that the schools in contact with him most often are Virginia Tech, Florida, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan and Michigan State. When asked about the possibility of coming up with a shorter list of schools, Hunter said, “towards the season” and that he thought the list probably would include 10 or seven schools. He added that Clemson, Florida and Virginia Tech definitely will make the list.
Hunter has already taken visits to several schools, including Alabama, Maryland and Florida, and he indicated to Scout.com that he plans to take trips to the following schools: Clemson, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Florida State. He also said that he’s hoping to announce his decision “before Christmas time.”
How he fits
Since Hunter has not committed to a school yet, let’s focus on the three he told Scout.com he knows will make his list: Clemson, Florida and Virginia Tech. While Hunter is listed as an athlete on Scout.com, he projects as a safety at the next level.
If he decides to stay close to home and pick Virginia Tech, Hunter would be joining a program with a rich lineage of top-end defensive backs, including 2016 NFL prospect Kendall Fuller. The Hokies changed coaches this off-season, replacing program architect Frank Beamer with Memphis’s Justin Fuente, but they scored a major win by retaining long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster—who has helped develop a number of players in Hunter’s position group into draft picks. However, defensive backs coach Torrian Gray did leave Blacksburg for Florida in February.
Clemson has gotten the better of Virginia Tech on the field of late, winning the last three meetings between the two teams, and the Tigers reached the College Football Playoff title game last season. Dabo Swinney's squad features multiple elite defensive back prospects eligible for this year’s draft—lockdown cornerback Mackensie Alexander and safeties T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse—and they reeled in a top-flight DB as part of their 2016 recruiting class in Coconut Creek (Fla.) High’s Trayvon Mullen.
At Florida, Hunter would have the opportunity to further the Gators’ rise under second-year coach Jim McElwain. The Gators produced a top-tier defensive back in this year’s draft in cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (the No. 11 pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and they return a first-team All-SEC player at the same position this season (junior Jalen Tabor). Tabor will be eligible to leave for the NFL before Hunter arrives on campus.
All three programs present enticing situations for Hunter. From an on-field standpoint, Clemson should remain a playoff contender for the foreseeable future, Florida showed signs of improvement in McElwain’s first season and Virginia Tech has a promising outlook under Fuente. From a professional development standpoint, each program has a history of grooming highly regarded recruits in Hunter's position group into draft picks.
Of course, Hunter may decide none of these programs is the best fit. There are plenty of others who would prefer that’s the case.