Tagging the Gators: NT Omar Hunter

Editor’s note: Each day between now and Florida’s Allstate Sugar Bowl date with Louisville, GatorNation will review the season for a key Gators player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at NT Omar Hunter.

NT Omar Hunter

Redshirt senior

39 tackles, 4 pass breakups

Role in 2012: Hunter started every game this season in the middle of UF’s defensive line and anchored a rush defense that gave up just 97 yards per game.

The good: Hunter flourished under defensive line coach Bryant Young and played his best football this season. He attributed that in part to being in the best shape of his career but it was also because he stayed healthy, which is something he didn’t do in his first several seasons. The 6-foot, 313-pound Hunter plugged the middle and occupied double-teams, and he also used his hands well to get off blocks and set a career-high in tackles. He showed a knack for knocking down passes, too.

The bad: The staff would have liked to have seen a bit more of a pass-rush presence out of Hunter. Not necessarily recording sacks, but pushing the middle of the pocket back into the quarterback’s face. But he was in the game as a run-plugger and he did his job well and allowed the linebackers to make plays. He’s not especially quick and although he has made strides in the weight room, he can still get stronger.

Crystal ball: Spending two seasons under Young and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who spent 10 years as an NFL coach before coming to Florida, has been a huge benefit for Hunter in terms of getting ready to play at the next level -- especially Young, who was recently nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hunter has a history of back issues, which is a concern and part of the reason why he projects as a late-round pick.