Travis Hunter Proves Why He's Among Nation's Elite

SI All-American had more eyes on Travis Hunter and the Florida State commitment did not disappoint
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Travis Hunter played at a different level of football this past weekend, at the Championship 7v7 Orlando, and he did so in a myriad of ways.

If you want a game-changer, Hunter is your man. On the hoof, Hunter looks to be about 5’11'' and 170-to-175-pounds. While still not completely filled out, a lanky and limber frame is great for wide receiver and cornerback play. Also of importance, his raw talent and determination go far beyond the measurables.

Hunter’s accomplishments to date, and another dominant performance this past weekend, are why he’s the nation’s most explosive class of 2022 prospect. Playing for Collins Hill High School in Suwanee (Ga.), Hunter destroyed much of the competition last fall.

The Florida State commitment is a talented two-way player that has an unusually diversified skill set for offense or defense. Before going into his skills, here’s why Hunter is widely considered the nation’s premiere wide receiver and/or skill position player.

By The Numbers

During the 14 games of his junior season, Hunter caught 137 passes for 1,746 and 24 touchdowns. Defensively, Hunter amassed eight interceptions and seven pass breakups playing cornerback. 

You read that correctly. 

More impressive, for high school prospects, Hunter accomplished those statistics playing in famed Gwinnett County, just east of Atlanta and arguably the nation’s best all-around county from an all-22 positional standpoint. .

In short, Hunter dominated. Even with all the notoriety and accomplishments, Hunter continues to play with a chip on his shoulder. His desire to be great was on full display this past weekend during the Championship 7v7 tournament in Florida.

Wide Receiver

Although Hunter insists he still wants to play cornerback for Florida State, it was his wide receiver play for South Florida Express 7v7 that stood out the most. Regardless of which defensive backs were defending Hunter, he met challenge after challenge. He’s not just a “speed” wide receiver either.

The biggest value for any wide receiver is catching the football. Hunter provides natural hands that make catches near or away from his body; it does not matter how he needs to contort his frame to make the catch. Once the ball reaches his hands, the fun begins.

Very few prospects deserve to be in the conversation as a human joystick. Hunter fits that profile to a “T” and then some. He’s elusive, and demonstrative, with his sharp cuts and dead-leg moves that leave the vast majority of defenders far behind. Run-after-the-catch is not the only opportunity Hunter utilizes his incredible lateral mobility.

Unlike other shifty wide receivers, Hunter displayed the rare ability to consistently use 90-degree cuts before catching the football. Yes, Hunter’s shake-and-bake after the catch grabs headlines, but his route-running incorporates moves and sharp cuts as well. This is the area that separates Hunter from any other 2022 wide receiver.

He goes hard from the beginning of his route, through the catch, and during the run after the catch. When combined with his natural skill, the motor that Hunter displays to package his talents together caught one’s eye. 

Athleticism Meets Expectations

As noted above, Hunter provided the quickness to separate versus any defensive back. He changed direction from a back pedal like few high school players, and he exploded by opponents with ease. What also stood out was open-field speed. Once Hunter declared his route, he quickly hit top gear. In fact, Hunter showed the ability to hit that gear with one step on several occasions. That’s rare. Hunter also used his speed in different ways.

More important than a 40-yard dash, Hunter’s 5-yard speed is as good as any high school wide receiver or cornerback one will find. This is vital because if Hunter consistently defeats a defensive back near the line of scrimmage, his other physical and mental attributes take over.

Speed also allows him more time to adjust to the football. His separation produced opportunities to catch passes that were not exactly on the mark, where Hunter needed to adjust by hitting full stride towards the end of his route. Defensive backs rarely had the opportunity to do much about it because Hunter was too far away.

Overall, Hunter showed elite quickness, excellent short-area speed and deep speed, and the ability to contort his body to make catches. He’s about as athletic as a high school player can be.

The Technical Aspect of Wide Receiver Play

There’s no perfect high school wide receiver, Hunter included. Of course this is 7-on-7 football, and these young men rarely, if ever, practice with one another (Hunter has suited up for at least three different 7-on-7 club teams this spring). That being stated, Hunter still did a good job of timing up his cuts and especially showcasing his ability to change speeds.

Many teams utilize bunch formations to create picks and rubs that allow wide receivers to get open. Hunter did well if he was the wide receiver that allowed his teammate to gain an open space for a catch, and he also utilized his incredible cutting ability to break off of rubs as well. An instinctive player, Hunter displayed his ability to play in team-first fashion several times. 

The term “stacking” is common with wide receiver play. The goal is to simply work directly behind the defensive back and not allow a path to the football without going through the wide receiver. Thus, it’s a penalty for pass interference or the wide receiver has a great opportunity for a catch. Hunter has a unique method to accomplish this goal.

As one would expect, Hunter’s speed allows him to pass by defenders. That’s a fact. His ability to hit top gear after lulling a defensive back into thinking he’s taking a play off proved to be effective time and time again. Once the defensive back slowed down, Hunter hit the gas.

At that point, Hunter stacked defensive backs during over routes and corner routes, as well as just creating space for the quarterback to make a comfortable pass. Watching Hunter speed by defenders with his change of pace showed that he’s already developed his mental awareness quite well, and he can adapt his routes during the middle of the play to produce the best outcome.

Final Thoughts

Watching Hunter play live proved that he’s an elite football player. He makes very talented players often look average. He plays with an edge that makes him go hard when it did not even matter because his team was way up on the scoreboard. Hunter is the proverbial “dawg” that makes him an outstanding football player and prospect.

Any high school fan that can go watch Hunter play this fall for Collins Hill should do so. He’s an elite player that deserves his just due as one of the class of 2022’s best.

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