Jul 16, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT
When Notre Dame added Torii Hunter Jr. to the roster on Signing Day 2013, the Irish did more than just add another famous father to the family section at Notre Dame Stadium. A four-star recruit who won the offensive MVP at The Opening and an Army All-American, Hunter looked like he’d add immediate reinforcements to the wide receiving corps.
But a freak injury running pass routes during All-American practices in San Antonio had the Irish signing a recruit with a broken left femur, a serious injury that cost Hunter his entire freshman season. After a long rehabilitation program that included a significant setback after his bone growth suffered, Hunter is back and competing.
Let’s take a look at what that means for the Irish depth chart and Notre Dame going forward.
TORII HUNTER JR.
6’0″ 190 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 16
A four-star recruit who fell outside of Rivals’ Top 250, Hunter still had some nice offers to go along with an impressive performance at The Opening. Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma all lost out on Hunter, who visited South Bend in late September and committed just a few days later.
Whatever player Hunter was before the broken leg, Notre Dame stood by their commitment to Hunter, who did the same with Notre Dame. On Signing Day, head coach Brian Kelly talked about the way Hunter aggressive worked to return from a fairly serious injury.
“We were in Torii’s home just about a week ago, and as many of you know, he suffered a leg injury, and he’s already up moving around after two and a half weeks,” Kelly said. “The care and the commitment that he has, here’s a guy that’s only going to get better and physically develop. We think he’s got that burst, if you will, that ability to take it and go from anywhere on the field.”
Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action.
Hunter is another player whose trajectory was significantly thrown off by injury. If not for the broken femur at the U.S. Army game, Hunter was expected by some to be one of the first freshmen onto the field. Now healthy, he’s got to fight his way into a position battle that may be seven or eight deep, no easy task for a sophomore trying to get his first playing time.
On Signing Day, Kelly said that Hunter profiled as an inside receiver. It appears that’s changed, with no mention of Hunter along with Amir Carlisle or C.J. Prosise. Or that means there’s still significant work to be done for Hunter, who showed a nice burst and drew some positive comments from Kelly in the practices running up to the Pinstripe Bowl.
This is a wait and see season for Hunter. Could the prep injury hinder him for another season? Quite possibly, as broken femur’s are a tricky healing process that’s rarely associated with football. Then again, injuries are hardly the only thing in the way. So is a depth chart with DaVaris Daniels, Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, Amir Carlisle and C.J. Prosise. Hunter likely starts fall camp behind all of them.
That said, only Daniels seems to have his role in the Irish offense cemented. So if Hunter walks into fall camp ready to roll, there’s not much of a line to work through on the depth chart. The young receiver caught the eye of Kelly during bowl prep, and certainly had the type of skills that lead to productivity when he was slicing and dicing his way through The Opening.
We might not ever know what a full speed Hunter looked like, or if the femur injury took something away from his top end speed. But all reports have him healthy and ready to compete. And with four years of eligibility remaining, the clock only now starts ticking.
The Irish A-to-Z
- Post-spring stock report: Secondary 12
- The good, the bad and the ugly: The 86th annual Blue-Gold game 61
- Five things we learned: Gold 36, Blue 34 76
- Pregame Six Pack: Finishing spring practice strong 3
- Even without guarantee, Kelly expects Golson to return next season 107
- Grace opens up about the long road back 44