Before suffering a gruesome broken leg during practice for the US Army All-American Bowl in 2013, Torii Hunter was pegged as a potential instant impact recruit for Notre Dame. On Saturday, more than 21 months since suffering the injury, the sophomore from Texas will be making his collegiate debut when Notre Dame takes on Syracuse from MetLife Stadium.
Hunter’s collegiate debut, already pushed back a year because of the broken leg and subsequent setback, suffered another set back this summer when he suffered a groin injury early in training camp causing him to miss Notre Dame’s first three games. Finally healthy, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly declared Hunter will indeed finally make his long awaited debut this weekend and for the Irish the timing could not be better.
“He practiced aggressively, would be the word I would use, yesterday (Monday), ” Brian Kelly said on Tuesday. “He felt pretty good at treatment this morning and we will aggressively move him again today and expect that that continues, and he will get his first action this Saturday, ” he added.
The timing couldn’t be better for Notre Dame because the Irish will be without Amir Carlisle after the senior suffered a sprained MCL against Purdue just a week after his breakout, two touchdown performance against Michigan. After Carlisle’s exit, the Irish passing game lost a dimension that Hunter will hopefully be able to fill.
Back in the spring we profiled Hunter as a potential breakout candidate at the slot position back in the spring. In the limited action we got to see of Hunter in the spring Hunter looked explosive and fully recovered. Then the groin injury delivered yet another setback for the one time four-star commitment and US Army All-American. That wait is finally over though.
“It’s no longer an experiment, it’s going to be an experience for him. It will be his first game experience on Saturday,” Kelly said yesterday.
With Carlisle out, that debut could be a busy one for Hunter as he will split time with CJ Prosise at the slot position this weekend. Prosise has shown the ability to be a big, physical target for Everett Golson, but Notre Dame will be looking for Hunter to replace the open field explosiveness that Carlisle added to the Irish offense.
The only unfortunate aspect of Hunter’s debut for the sophomore will be that his father, Detroit Tiger outfielder Torii Hunter Sr., will be unable to attend his son’s first game action with the Tigers in the thick of a playoff race. Detroit holds a precious two game lead over the Kansas City Royals for first place in the AL Central.
Where Hunter fits into the Irish offense long term will be interesting once Carlisle is back in the lineup. Hunter was practicing on the outside in camp and could move back outside when Carlisle is healthy. Hunter’s skillset, however, seems tailor made for the slot position and a strong debut could make the Irish coaching staff rethink the depth chart at the slot when the receiving corps are back to full strength.
For now, though, look for Hunter to see some targets early in his first collegiate action this weekend. Hopefully for Hunter and Notre Dame it will be well worth the wait.