Baer Hunter is a former two-star recruit out of West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina. Before talking about football and his college career, I had to ask him about his incredible name.
I asked Hunter about how he was given the nickname of Baer:
My grandfather used to call me Baer all the time when I was little, so I would go by Baer everywhere except at school. His name is Frank Hunter and when he passed away, when I was in third grade, I decided to keep the name and just go by it fully.
It was pretty tough for my friends at first to go from John to Baer, but everybody has the hang of it now.
Hunter originally committed to Toledo out of high school, but ultimately flipped his decision to Appalachian State.
I asked him why he decided to change his plans and pick App. State out of all the schools that were pursuing him:
I honestly didn't know much about Appalachian State, outside of the fact that they beat Michigan (in 2007), because I'm originally from Detroit. I knew all about that, but I didn't really know where they were located or too much about their school.
Originally, I had committed to Toledo. My father was a coach at Bowling Green, so I knew all about the MAC and everything like that. When Matt Campbell left Toledo, I wasn't trying to go to Iowa State, I really didn't know where I was going to go.
Kind of out of nowhere, I was heading back from the movie theater, I got a call from Coach (Mark) Ivey and he said they were going to offer me a scholarship. It just so happened that my high school coach went to App. State and knew Coach Ivey, so they took me on a visit like the next day.
I saw everything and almost committed on the spot, honestly. I loved the environment and the coaches, and it felt like a family immediately. The culture of this team made me feel like I fit in right away, so I committed.
Hunter churned out an outstanding career for the Mountaineers, as he started 52 games across the offensive line. He was a two-time First Team All-Sun Belt honoree and was named a team captain this past year when he took over at center.
I asked him what it meant, personally, to be named a captain after so many years with the team:
I thought it was amazing to be voted a team captain by my peers. A lot of guys get voted by their coaches and such, but to be voted by your peers really shows that what you are doing is working. To be voted by my peers was awesome for me and it really helped with my confidence as well.
It is tough to be a leader, especially in a college program. At first, it was hard for me to say that I am a leader when I was still making mistakes myself. When I found out that my teammates looked up to me that way, it was a lot easier to express myself to them.
Success Despite Change
Hunter had quite the journey in his college career when it came to changing positions. He came into App. State as a defensive lineman and was moved over to tight end near the end of his redshirt freshman season. He was then moved over to right guard to start his redshirt sophomore campaign back in 2018.
After starting 40 games at right guard, Hunter was, again, asked to switch positions. He moved down to center, where he started another 12 games there to finish off his career.
I asked him how difficult it was to be continually pushed to different positions and if any of the transitions were harder than the others:
Honestly, I don't feel like any of the transitions were tough. Throughout my entire high school career, and middle school, I played just about every position there is. In seven on sevens in high school I played safety. I was a starting quarterback my freshman and sophomore year in high school.
The only thing I never really played was offensive line. I knew that I would just need to learn what to do and develop some technique to be fine. The hardest part of playing offensive line was just the technique. I already had the competitive factor to play the position, I just needed to add some technique and coaching and I was ready to go.
Once I got the hang of things, it just came naturally. I feel like the game of football comes naturally to me and that made it much easier to move between so many positions.
Protection Calls and Film Study
Moving over to center from right guard isn't a major change, like going from offense to defense, but it does come with a bit more responsibility. Centers, for the most part, are in charge of protection calls for the entire offensive line group up front.
I asked Hunter what his role was in protection calls and if he was the main communicator/decision maker of those calls:
I made all the calls up front. I made the protection calls, I ID'd the MIKE.. I made all the calls that needed to be made for the offensive line. If we called a play, I made sure to tell every offensive lineman where to go on all of those plays.
I then began to pry a bit more into this, because you all know that I love to talk film and scheme with these players.
I asked Hunter what his relationship was like with his quarterback, Chase Brice, in his first year making those calls up front:
I feel like me and Chase spent a lot of time together and really got on the same page. All of that work is done in the offseason, and being able to go out there and get those reps in was big in getting us all on the same page.
We have great coaches as well. My coach is telling me the same thing that Chase's coach is telling him. We were all on the same page from coaches down to the players and it helps having the great structure that we had at App. State.
I even dove more in-depth with protection calls and fused it with film study for the center position.
I asked Hunter what he liked to watch on film in preparation for his protection calls that he would have to make on gameday:
I'm watching for those tendencies. A lot of teams give (their blitz tendencies) away pre-snap. For instance, they show that the corner is coming when they have the free safety off the hash and the corner that is blitzing is up in press man.
A lot of teams also give away their blitz when they have the nickel/SAM relationship inside the safety. I noticed that we would take our slide to where our first key would be from the nickel/SAM to the safety. I started to notice that when that nickel/SAM is inside the safety, in most cases, that is the guy they are going to bring.
A lot of teams do these things similarly, but it's not going to be that easy at the next level in the NFL. It got to the point that teams would notice how we would call our protection, so they would try to change some things on defense. We would have to counter and ID a certain player that would give it away.
When we played Miami this year, I remember that I would take the slide away from the down hand of the nose guard. I had to take it the opposite way of whichever hand was down from that nose guard, because he was giving away where the blitz was coming from. The nose guard had no idea that he was giving it away on every play.
Earning the Baer Hunter Name
With an incredible name like Baer Hunter on the offensive line, he almost has to be a nasty finisher as a blocker. Hunter finished the past two years with a combined 115 knockdown blocks (per App. State's website).
I asked him if transitioning from defense to offense helped him play with the required intensity to be an offensive lineman:
I don't even know if it was because I was a defensive lineman. I'm just a physical player. The game of football is physical and I was always taught that you are either going to be the hammer or the nail. I refuse to be the nail, I'm always going to be the hammer.
That's just how I am, and it's how my father and my mom raised me to be. I'm a physical player and I have to be that way.
My favorite aspect of watching Hunter's film was seeing him sweep the pocket and look for extra work in the pass game.
I asked him if that was something that he had to learn to do when jumping over to the offensive line:
When I first moved over to offensive line, I didn't know that is what offensive linemen were supposed to do. I was just doing my job and when nobody was in my gap, I wasn't blocking anybody. I really didn't know you could peel back and help at other gaps.
It took a little bit of time, but I was pretty quick to pick it up. I would say it took me one to two practices, maybe, to get out there and search for extra work. I just knew that if I was out there not doing anything then I was wrong, so that helped the transition.
I finished off the interview with the same way I finish all of them. I asked Hunter how he would sell himself to a team this offseason. I asked him what my team would be getting, on and off the field, if they draft him:
I feel like the team that picks me up would know that, wherever I am, the job will be done. I'm the guy that will always go out there and do his job. You don't have to worry about me doing things the wrong way.
I'm a quick learner and I'm fast, really fast, off the ball. I don't know why coaches wouldn't want a player that is aggressive and fast off the ball. I know most people talk about my height, but some of the best players in the league are a little bit shorter. Look at Aaron Donald, his height is not a factor at all.
I feel like when people see my size, they think that it's going to be easy to get by me when I'm blocking. I saw it at the Tropical Bowl. A lot of guys thought that it would be easy to get by me because I'm a smaller guy, and they found out very quickly that they were mistaken.
I just feel like teams are going to get a very physical guy that is fast off the ball and a quick learner. Also a player that wants to win and will bring that edge to a team.
Hunter is an incredible college player that may be overlooked by some NFL teams because of his size. I feel confident in saying that some team is going to get a steal with this player.
He is a nasty player on film that is very smart in the film room. In a league that is so desperate for quality offensive linemen, someone will find a gem in Baer Hunter.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.