If you have the time to read it, there is a lot of good information on the technical aspects of being a good receiver.
There are only two players that I have studied in recent years that have the athleticism to even be mentioned stylistically within the same sentence as Randy Moss. The first his Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, who has done enough on an NFL field to convince me that he belongs within the same stylistic tier as the all-time great vertical threat. Give Green a quarterback commensurate with his ability and the Moss-like stats will follow.
The other player is Hunter. While his potential is in the same neighborhood his play has yet to reach the same subdivision. Hunter has experienced his share of big drops this year, including a deep target against Alabama in late October. I watched two of Hunterís games thus far Ė this yearís N.C. State game in Atlanta and a match up with Cincinnati Ė and I came away ambivalent.
In terms of ceiling, you might strain your neck trying to find were Hunterís upside ends. However, there are basics flaws to Hunterís game that might as well have him chained to the ground. Both Randy Moss and A.J. Green were refined talents for by rookie standards Ė and perhaps even by veteran standards. Even Jets receiver Stephen Hill wasnít as raw as Hunter when I evaluated him last year. When a player like Hunter in a passing game that has a lot of pro-style tendencies is less polished than a former Georgia Tech receiver in a triple-option offensive system, itís a concern.
Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley has a similar assessment.
ďFirst, it has to happen with more consistency in practice. Justin has got to understand that playing receiver is not always clean and easy [and] that thereís a little grit that you have to do to get open. Youíre going to have to get hit. Good receivers are going to make those kind of plays no matter what the circumstance. Heís not there yet. We all want to talk about how heís this first-round pick and the No.1 pick in the draft and he can be that, but he has never performed to that standard in my opinion. And he knows that. So he needs to focus on his development and what does he do well, what are some things that we have got to keep building on, and how do we get there. Heís got great character, itís important to him, and heís got a lot of special qualities as a wide out. But being able to go produce out there week after week is what matters.Ē
What I hear Dooley saying is that Hunter isnít working on the fine points of his game in practice. When itís time to execute he makes mistakes because he hasnít ingrained all the teachings that the Tennessee program has tried to impart on him. On some level, Hunter has been coasting on his first-round athleticism. Otherwise a head coach Ė especially a head coach whose father was an SEC head coach and athletic director Ė wouldnít challenge his player publicly.
Hunterís deficiencies arenít difficult to spot. This is the first part of a series of posts about Hunter and how this fantastic talent is holding himself back from potential greatness.