ORLANDO - It’s not easy to find a 6’4”, 321-pound defensive tackle that can make an impact on a college football program quite the way Lee Hunter could do for UCF. He’s big, mobile, and a player opposing teams will have to contend with each snap he lines up for the Knights. Indeed, the former Mobile (Ala.) Bount player comes to UCF with high expectations.
After redshirting at Auburn this past season, Hunter will have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2022 season for UCF. Considering UCF’s need to finalize the interior defensive line depth chart, Hunter is about as perfect a prospect that could have come to Orlando from the Transfer Portal. He cures a prime concern for every defensive coordinator.
Do we have a player that can play over the center that can command a double team?
That’s a check box. There’s no gray area. Yes or no. It takes a true brute to do that. In the college ranks, interior offensive linemen are also massive men. Place an inferior target in front of them, and it will be a massive hole for a running back to run through right where the defensive tackle was before the snap of the football, especially during a double team opportunity. Hunter has the ability to hold his ground at the point of attack. Even not making tackles while being double teamed, Hunter is likely at his most valuable. That's also likely why UCF Co-Defensive Coordinator Travis Williams was so happy on his birthday
Freeing up the inside linebackers to run free to the ball carrier. That’s often an interior defensive lineman’s task if an opposing squad uses a double team. It also helps that Hunter has the ability to push the pocket, so even during passing downs he creates havoc. That’s also a chance to free up fellow defensive tackles like Ricky Barber, who otherwise would be seeing his fair share of double teams himself.
Barber is the more cat-quick player with lateral mobility as a true asset, so if Hunter can free him up to rush the passer one-on-one against a blocker, that’s another reason Hunter makes an impact without even tackling anyone.
The two situations above are just two reasons that an athletic 6’4”, 321-pound player is a coveted commodity. It’s a major need for every team, and there just are not enough of them. Hunter also checks off another box for the Knights.
He’s the first player for UCF to land from the state of Alabama since Gus Malzahn took over in Orlando for UCF. The now Head Coach of UCF was a frequent visitor to southern Alabama high schools while being the head man at Auburn from 2013-2020. He should have been.
The greater Mobile area alone is loaded with top talent. Practically every program in the SEC makes Mobile a recruiting stop. For the class of 2022, national recruits like linebacker Shemar James from Mobile (Ala.) Faith Academy signed with Florida, and linebacker Robert Woodyard from Mobile (Ala.) Williamson signed with Auburn. That’s just a taste of the talent UCF wants to dip into. Signing Hunter should help with that endeavor.
Blount High School has a reputation as a top football program. Seeing Hunter transfer over to UCF will bring more eyeballs onto the program from the high school players and coaches in Mobile and its surrounding suburbs. Can the Knights capitalize?
Time will tell. For now, UCF will continue to hammer away at prospects in Alabama to add to an already impressive return on investment with recruiting the state of Florida. Adding two players from areas like Mobile and/or Montgomery and/or Birmingham, per recruiting class, would be a great way to bolster the UCF roster. As for Hunter, he has work to do in Orlando.
It’s up to him. There’s not another player that has the natural physical gifts to play as a power player along UCF’s interior defensive line. Size is one thing, but this young man is a bull. If he comes to work every day he will quickly find himself in contention for serious playing time.
That’s why he was ranked as the No. 67 player by SI All-American, 105th in the nation by 247 Sports, the No. 121 player by Rivals, the 60th best prospect in the land by ESPN.
Offers from Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, Florida State and Ole Miss also make it obvious that Hunter’s talent is tremendous.