Notebook: Hunter says juniors not talking NFL


Florida defensive tackle Omar Hunter said he's not hearing much from the juniors about their prospects of leaving early for the NFL.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer
Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 5:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 5:26 p.m.

While there is a lot of talk in the media and among the fans about Florida's top juniors possibly leaving early for the NFL, there apparently is very little chatter about it among the players and coaches.

“None,” senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. “Whereas, when I was a young guy, I used to hear it all the time, ‘Oh, man, I'm leaving. I don't want to be here anymore. I'm going to go get the money.'

“This year, not one bit. Guys are locked in on the task we have to do now. And that's winning this next bowl game. There hasn't been a lot of time to worry about the NFL or the next step or whatever.”

The Gators have five juniors who are considering declaring for the draft — safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, tight end Jordan Reed, outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins and defensive end/tackle Dominique Easley.

Hunter has some advice for the juniors.

“Talk to (defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn and (defensive line coach) Bryant Young,” he said. “That's the best advice I can give. Those guys know it (from being in the NFL for many years). They wouldn't lie to us. They love us, they really do.

“I know they really care about us and won't let us make a bad decision. Ultimately, the decision is ours, but those guys will give you the best advice they can.”

Quinn said he hasn't really been approached yet by the top juniors.

“Not as much as I would (think),” Quinn said. “I've stayed back a little bit and waited for them to come and use me as a resource if they want my opinion on it. I would certainly give it, but it really hasn't come up as much as I would have thought it would.

“I'm glad that some guys are (in a position to leave early for the NFL). It's a good problem for them to have to think about. How many young guys wouldn't want to be in that spot? But not as many guys have approached me as I would have thought.”

Stopping Johnny Football

Quinn had to admit that he had some warm feelings (and some good memories flash through his mind) when Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy earlier this month. Manziel was pretty much unstoppable all season. But Quinn's defense stopped him, shutting him down in the second half in a win over Texas A&M in the second week of the season.

“It certainly is (something to be proud of),” Quinn said. “I had a chance to talk to the offensive coordinator there, and we were laughing at it. There was another coach from LSU and we said, ‘That guy is a problem.' That's my best way to describe him.

“In terms of how we rushed and pushed the pocket and played really good coverage on the back end, I think it was a total combination of those guys playing today, and it certainly didn't hurt that we had him in his first ballgame.”

Quinn was asked if it was cool hearing Manziel's name announced as the Heisman winner.

“Yeah, not on our watch, right?” Quinn said. “What a season that guy had.”

Young guys emerging on ‘D'

Quinn said two true freshman defensive players have really started to stand out in practice — Buck linebacker/end Dante Fowler Jr. and cornerback/safety Brian Poole.

“One that is really coming on and you can see is Dante Fowler,” Quinn said. “You say, ‘Well, Dan, he's played all year.' But he's really playing at a high level now. You can see the momentum, the confidence, the understanding at a faster rate.

“In the (secondary) one guy that's really caught my attention and is doing a good job right now is Brian Poole.”

Hunter said Fowler has a chance to become a big-time player.

“That kid is special. He's special,” Hunter said. “He is what I wanted to be my freshman year. He's going to be very special. He's going to be a great player here. He's a quick, powerful guy.

“He can play inside and outside at end. He can cover tight ends. He's just a special athlete, special football player. He's learned the system. He's getting smarter. He's a smarter football player than when he first game in.”

Quite a Christmas gift

Several players have been asked this week what they consider to be their favorite Christmas memory. Some have hesitated trying to come up with an answer. Hunter did not.

“Um, early Christmas, my daughter being born,” he said. “She is two weeks (old).”

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