Derick Hunter Jr. says he knows where he’s going to play college football.
However, considering there’s nearly two years left until he signs on the dotted line, the two-way prospect plans on enjoying every second of his already-frenzied recruitment.
Hunter, a 6-foot-5 sophomore at Dunbar High in Fort Myers, continues to pick up scholarship offers from programs across the country, including the likes of Florida and Miami (Fl.)
But if anything, his recruitment — which currently sits at 15 scholarship offers — is just heating up.
On Monday, Hunter received a visit from Kentucky co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw, whose staff has developed a reputation for finding blue-chip prospects before they’re household names.
The Wildcats’ interest adds further validation to Hunter’s nearly meteoric rise.
— Derick hunter. jr (@hunterderick31) April 21, 2017
“They’ve basically been saying come up there, get the experience and be a ‘cat,” Hunter said. “Also to come be around Shocky (Jacques-Louis), he’s a Kentucky commit. Me and Shocky grew up with each other coming into high school. That’s who I’m always guided by, that’s who I always follow. Because he was and is a great role model.”
Jacques-Louis verbally committed to the Wildcats on April 21, and the program has had Hunter’s eye ever since.
However, no program has pursued Hunter harder than Florida has, and it’s easy to see the interest is real.
“Height wise, I was probably 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds last year,” Hunter said. “It’s really like defensive end, defensive tackle and tight end. I was listed as a tight end my freshman year, so basically you get me back in that rhythm in practice, get me reps…(UF offensive coordinator Doug) Nussmeier, that’s what we talk about is playing both sides, staying hydrated and everything and make sure my grades are up.”
When Hunter says Nussmeier is paying attention to him early in the process, he isn’t talking about just the occasional phone call or text.
“He was supposed to come see me today,” Hunter said, “but he’s coming Thursday.”
Florida was the second Division I program to offer Hunter a scholarship, and the team’s interest apparently hasn’t wavered. It reached new heights, however, when Hunter made the trip north on April 7 for UF’s Orange and Blue Debut game.
If Hunter didn’t believe Florida’s interest was substantial, sitting on coach Jim McElwain’s office likely assuaged any lingering doubt.
“At the end of the game, everybody went in the Gator room, and it’s basically like he separated himself from everybody and just focused on me, and took me into coach McElwain’s office and we were just chopping it up,” Hunter said. “He’s saying he really wants to work with me.”
As Hunter describes it, the term “work” may be an understatement.
“That’s the main thing that makes Florida my number one. They really want to work with me, they’re trying to help me so I can graduate early and get me up there,” he said. “And a lot of coaches don’t really try and do that with you, they’ll offer you but keep it moving, stuff like that. But with coach Nussmeier, he’s just been like that since Day 1. Since he became my recruiting coordinator, he’s been like ‘We need Derick, we need Derick’, and when I go up there he’s really showing a lot of love. He makes me the main attraction.”
But several years ago, Hunter was on another side of the state’s rivalry, donned in orange, white and green.
“I’m actually a Hurricane fan,” Hunter said. “But now it’s like I really don’t care anymore, it’s to the point where I just want to see who shows the most love to me. Growing up, you don’t really know that because you’re a little kid. But Florida basically has been there since my freshman year, at the end of my freshman year is when I got offered by them.”
By Hunter’s account, the Gators have taken the time getting to know him while Miami coach Mark Richt hasn’t taken the steps to build a relationship.
“When I was in Miami, half of the coaching staff knew me and then when I went up to coach Richt, when I got offered by them originally I was in his office, but when I went up to him on the one visit, he didn’t even know who I was,” Hunter said. “When I went up to Florida, I walk into Coach Mac’s office and he called me ‘D’, my childhood nickname. That’s a major difference right there.”
Now comes the hard part for Florida’s coaching staff: staving off those arriving late to the party.
Hunter said he’s expecting a meeting in the near future with Oregon coach Willie Taggart, seeing as he’s already received visits from several members of Taggart’s staff.
This junk is so stressful but I gotta enjoy the process can’t wait to sign them papers 📝📝🏫🏈#3D3N
— Derick hunter. jr (@hunterderick31) April 20, 2017
And now Hunter has arguably the premier program in the SEC blowing his phone up.
“Alabama has been hitting me up,” Hunter said. “They’ve got the defensive line coach and the director of player personnel hitting me up now.”
He hasn’t visited Tuscaloosa yet, but the Crimson Tide want him to attend a camp in the near future.
But Hunter said he can’t see himself at Alabama, not when the interest between himself and Florida is palpable.
“How I feel, lately I’ve just been wanting to lock it in with Florida,” Hunter said. “My coach is telling me to keep my options open, don’t lock it in because I’m only a sophomore. He told me ‘go up there, you might like it’, but I don’t know if it’s going to be like Gainesville.”
Hunter has, however, expressed an interest in enjoying the process and taking his time to commit. He may be sold on the idea of playing for Nussmeier and McElwain at Florida, but there’s little rush with nearly two years until his National Signing Day.
“I’m just keeping my options open. My coach is just saying ‘Enjoy the process’,” Hunter said. “At the same time, at the end of the day, I know where I’m going. Staying in the books so I can graduate early, so when it’s time for me to commit I’ve got everything settled and I can sit back and relax, kick my feet up. And when January comes I can early enrollee, and now I’m back fighting for a starting position. That’s been my main goal since I stepped on Dunbar’s campus as a freshman.”
— Derick hunter. jr (@hunterderick31) April 15, 2017