Archive for April, 2013

Justin Hunter: The Most Maddening Wide Receiver In The Draft

As anybody who follows me on twitter knows, I’m a huge football fan and a bit of a Draft geek. With the Draft rapidly approaching I’ve been in a state of hibernation if you will.  The last month or so, if the NCAA tournament wasn’t on I was most likely watching video of various prospects.  Tonight, I was looking at Wide Receivers for a freelance piece, and I came across Tennessee’s Justin Hunter…..or should I say the most maddening receiver in the 2013 class?

Let me first start with the positive.  Before you even watch Hunter run a route, his physical gifts jump off the screen at you.  At 6’4″ and 196 pounds, his build starts to remind you of this guy you may have heard of, Randy Moss.  He’s got great length with 33.25″ arms, and good hand size at just under 9.5″.  Then you get to his athleticism.  He’s can out jump most with a 40″ vertical, and can be an absolute game breaker with blazing sub 4.4 speed, and that’s all before you actually watch him play.

When he’s on the field he can be absolutely dominate.  At times he runs exceptional routes, cutting with purpose to create maximum separation.  He uses his hands very well to beat press coverage, and can even get down field and block when called upon.  He’s a YAC machine, breaking tackles and eluding defenders on most of his receptions, and he uses his body extremely well to shield off defenders.  Oh and don’t get me started on Hunter in the redzone…..he’s virtually impossible to bring down inside the twenty, shaking defenders with ease, and fighting for every inch as he extends the ball towards the pylon.

At times he shows great awareness to adjust to the ball.  One instance of this that stuck out to me was a pass late in the first quarter against Troy.  Hunter adjusted to a throw that was about three feet above his head, and a foot or two behind him reaching back and essentially batting the ball into position so he could make the catch for the touchdown.  Hunter also has a solid route tree, showing the ability to run stop and goes, posts, corner, curl, and jet routes with good precision.  Most of the time he stabs the ground well and cuts hard leaving the Defensive Back guessing.

But I did say that Hunter was maddening, and if you’ve been paying attention I’ve been using the phrases “most of the time”, and “at times”, and therein lies the problem with Hunter.  He’s not consistent.  In fact, in that same game against Troy, Hunter began the game dropping an over the shoulder pass on a fly route.  Not only did he drop an easy pass, but it was a walk in touchdown where Tennessee’s Quarterback Tyler Bray played the ball right in his hands with Hunter in full stride.  With all the incredible acrobatic catches Hunter makes, seeing him drop such an easy ball is disheartening to say the least.  Hunter’s only consistency problem isn’t just with his hands either.  No, it seems his entire game suffers from it.  For no apparent reason his routes get sloppy, and he gives up on routes only to have his Quarterback look his way again, and Hunter not be able to recover quick enough.

But the most alarming thing to me, is his lack of awareness at times.  On numerous occasions I’ve watched Hunter under run the route on conversion downs.  Whether it be a curl, jet, post or any other route, when you have to move the chains you must run your route past the sticks.  At times, Hunter does the exact opposite, stopping several yards shy of the line to gain for a first down.

Is it a problem with awareness?  Is he bored?  Does he check out of games?  Maybe he’s just preoccupied thinking about what color Bentley he wants to buy?  Only one person knows the answer, and he’s likely had to tell numerous teams what it is.  Whatever it is, it’s enough to drive a Draft geek like me to madness.  I look for certain things when I’m watching Wide Receivers, and Hunter has all of them in spades.  He has every tool that you hope to see in a number one play maker, and you can certainly see ability that could make him an incredible Wide Receiver at the next level.  But you can also see flaws that could be the difference in being good but never great instead of special.

With the first round of the Draft less than a week away now Hunter will certainly be a prospect to watch.  Can he go in the first round?  Absolutely, and he probably will.  But whatever team takes him may be taking a risk that these issues are in the past, and that he will play full speed every down after his big payday…..

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What’s the Big Deal with RI5E TO THE OCCASION?

Last Sunday, Louisville Cardinal Guard Kevin Ware suffered a devastating leg injury in the first half of their Elite Eight game, when he attempted to block a shot by Duke’s Tyler Thornton.  Ware’s leg snapped in two places, and he was left lying on the floor while his teammates and everyone in the building looked on in shock.  The Cardinals were visibly distraught, breaking down into tears as their fallen teammate had to exit the arena on a stretcher.  Ware suffered a compound fracture, ending his NCAA Tournament run, and placing his basketball career in jeopardy.  The Cardinals rallied around Ware in the second half, en route to a blowout victory over the Blue Devils.  After the game, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino told Press during every timeout he reminded his players what was on the line and told them to “bring Kevin home”.  And then the controversy started…..

Ware, a resident of the Atlanta area, is home now.  Not only is he home in Atlanta, but he’s home with his teammates who are now preparing for a match up with Michigan for the NCAA Championship after a dogfight against Wichita State tonight.  When the game tips off on Monday night, Michigan will have an uphill battle.  Ever since Ware’s injury, even the biggest of Final Four Cinderella’s like the Shockers have been forgotten.  Most (including myself) now just want to see the Cardinals go “all in for #5”, and “win it for Kevin”.

Earlier this week, Adidas (the apparel provider for Cardinals athletics) decided to support the Cardinals cause by printing special “Ri5e To The Occasion” shirts utilizing Ware’s number 5 instead of an S.  While I’m not gullible enough to say that Adidas doesn’t have financial interests in mind, I also don’t think this act is as malicious as some in the media are trying to make it seem.

I’ve heard people referencing the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit when talking about the shirt, and to me that argument falls on deaf ears.  Yes, technically the shirt uses Ware’s “likeness” for profitability.  But to me, that wasn’t the reason that Louisville decided to allow Adidas to print the shirt.  It was extremely evident that the Cardinals team drew motivation from the opportunity to send their fallen teammate home to the Final Four, and it was perhaps even more evident that Ware was going to be their biggest motivation to win the next two games as well.  Now they’re halfway to that goal, and the mission is still clear “win it for Kevin”.  Even with the biggest prize in their sport on the line the main motivation for not only the team, but the entire Cardinal fanbase truly seems to be winning a title for #5.  To me, that goes beyond selling the likeness of a player for gain.  To me, that’s an exception to the rule.

I also heard numerous people make comments about the price of the shirt, saying that “$24.99 is more then a normal shirt costs”.  To that I say this…..When was the last time you bought a licensed team apparel t-shirt?  Now I’m not a Louisville fan, so maybe there’s are cheaper than every other college teams, but I’ve bought numerous USC t-shirts from the Nike store for years, and I can’t remember one being less than $30.  I’ve also bought many Panthers shirts over the years as well, and they too have almost always been around $30 dollars.  But even if it was marked up some, to me it’s irrelevant.  Adidas has pledged to give a percentage of the profit to Louisville’s scholarship fund, and honestly the people who are buying the shirt won’t mind paying a few extra dollars (even though they aren’t) in order to help the school out.

The shirts have now been taken off the site, and honestly I don’t really agree with the decision.  To me, the cause was just, and the financial gain for Louisville was secondary to the support for Kevin.

Monday night I know one thing, I will be watching.  Even though I have no allegiance to the Cardinals I will be a Louisville fan on Monday.  I will wear Cardinal red on Monday, and be cheering hard for Russ “Russdiculous” Smith and the rest of the Cardinals who will be on the floor competing for a title.  But most of all I will be watching because I want to see the Cardinals “win it for Kevin”.  Yes Monday I, like many of us will be “all in for #5”, and I like many of us will be hoping the Cardinals can RI5E TO THE OCCASION…..

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