In our fifth edition of our 16 predictions for the 2016 Notre Dame football season we’ll discuss how Torii Hunter Jr. is poised to have a break out season and be the go-to threat for the Irish.
Prediction No.5: Torii Hunter Jr. becomes a star.
Last season we finally got see the potential of Hunter Jr. as he was the team’s third leading receiver. He hauled in 28 balls for 363 yards and two touchdowns. This season expect to see the numbers skyrocket as he will become the go-to receiver for the Irish offense. And I say this because the Irish are losing a ton of production from the receiver position with the losses of Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. Not to mention with his recent concussion battles, Corey Robinson’s days could be numbered. So, Hunter Jr. is in a perfect position to emerge as the man for DeShone Kizer or Malik Zaire.
I think we could see similar progression from Hunter Jr. that Fuller had from his freshman to sophomore year. In Fuller’s first season with the Irish he caught just six balls for 160 yards and one touchdown. Most of this was due to the fact that he had veterans like T.J. Jones and DaVaris Daniels in front of him. But in his second season he made a huge leap and caught 76 balls for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns. The same could be said for Hunter Jr. He had supremely talented guys in front of him last year, but still managed to flash his potential. This year he becomes the go-to guy and will make that kind of leap this year.
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We saw Hunter Jr. mostly in the slot last season, but we could see him move out to the outside some this season. Although C.J. Sanders went down with a hip injury that will sideline him all spring he could still see some time in the slot in 2016. Also with Sanders down and Hunter Jr. splitting time playing baseball this spring, Corey Holmes and Chris Finke could play themselves into some playing time in the slot this year. So the Irish have some options at the slot position, which will allow Hunter Jr. to move out the outside.
The Irish have a ton of depth at the wide receiver spot with the likes of Hunter Jr., Sanders, Holmes, Equanimeous St. Brown, Miles Boykin, Kevin Stepherson, Chase Claypool and Javon McKinley. This is a rather young and inexperienced group, but at the same time a very talented group. As a senior, Hunter Jr. is now the elder statesman of the wide receivers and is poised to lead and be the No.1 guy.