Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SMU's Margus Hunt at ILB for the Steelers

Margus Hunt, the Estonian (the tattoo is a wolf).
If you watched the BVBA Compass Bowl in Birmingham two years ago, when Pitt played SMU, you probably couldn't help but notice a defensive end for SMU. His name is Margus Hunt, who is 6'8", and he abused Pitt's Tino Sunseri all day.  At the time, two years ago, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls are thinking, "Who is this guy, and can the Steelers get him?"

Well, he was just a junior then. This year, Hunt has been projected as high as a late-second or mid-third-round pick -- but more so as a "project" who might be worth a mid-round (fourth/fifth) draft pick.

Because Margus Hunt performed so well in drills Monday night at the Combine, however, his stock just went up. Dramatically.

We're still not talking first-round material here, not at No. 17, but midway through the second? Yeah, if he's still available, why not take a close look?

On Monday, Hunt ran a very good time in the 40 (4.60), which surprised everyone and was  step-for-step comparable to best performers among all defensive linemen, including the extremely impressive but lighter-weight Dion Jordan, Barkevious MingoEzekiel Ansah, etc.  At 277 pounds, Hunt's 40-yard dash time at the Combine was faster than all but two tight ends.

Hunt also pushed 38 reps on the bench at 225 lbs. per rep, and that's a lot of reps for anybody -- tied for most reps among all Combine prospects this year. For his height, he's light (277), lean and put together. He has an 82-inch wingspan. 

Seventeen blocked kicks for SMU
While at SMU, he blocked nine field goals (an NCAA record) and eight extra points. The Steelers couldn't use somebody like that?

Here's what Joe Porter's Pit Bulls are thinking: Because he runs so well and since the Steelers love to switch up defensive ends to OLBs, how about another switch -- can you imagine this guy at Inside Linebacker?  Paired with Lawrence Timmons?  Stuffing the runs, altering passing lanes with his height, running loops and stunts on the pass rush?  Being a presence in the middle and using his speed sideline to sideline. 

You can't teach that kind of height.
You can't teach that kind of height. And that frame and wingspan would come in handy vs. the tall, rangy tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Jason Witten, Dennis Pitta, Ed Hickson, Jermichael Finley, Jermaine Grisham, Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates, et al.

Nobody's talking about Hunt at ILB, but that's what we're thinking. When we see this guy, we see either a relatively light defensive end in a 4-3, or a cross between Karl Mecklenberg and Levon Kirkland at ILB -- which is where we believe he could really shine.

To some extent, Hunt calls to mind Jevon Kearse ("The Freak"), a DE/LB who entered the NFL in 1999. Kearse was about 6'4", 245-255, and had an 86-inch wingspan. He had a sometimes brilliant career spanning 11 years for the Titans and Eagles.

The Steelers tried to address the ILB position in last year's draft with third-round choice Sean Spence, the inside linebacker from Miami who showed some promise but unfortunately suffered a massively complex and severe knee injury (with peroneal nerve damage) in the 2012 preseason. The Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette reports the Steelers are not counting on Spence to contribute this year.

The Wolf.  Alert, watchful; ready; righteous
At 5'll, 231 lbs., Spence made people wonder if he was too small to play ILB in the NFL.  At 6'8", 277 lbs., Hunt imparts no such concerns.  You want a thumper at Inside Linebacker? Here's your thumper.

The Baltimore Ravens met with Hunt already and are interested in having him bulk up 20 pounds to be a 3-4 defensive end (come to think of it, Aaron Smith was about Hunt's weight when Smith came out of Northern Colorado). 

The Ravens are interested? Of course they are, but we have this idea that he could be awesome at ILB for the Steelers  ... 

Oh, and about that tattoo of a wolf on his shoulder:  Hunt says his name in Estonian means "wolf," and the tattoo implicitly suggests he is channeling that animus. Here's an excerpt from the article link at Dallas's Central Track, below: 
"On his left bicep Hunt has a tattoo of a wolf. He says that's what his last name means in Estonian. Maybe it's also an external representation of the beast within. Watching him play, it's clear that he has an instinctive nature, not unlike a wolf's, although Hunt plays down any such connection. 
"I'm still trying to find kind of that animal sense," he says. "I think I have it, but, in my mind, it's defined a little bit differently. I like to play hard, but I don't like to be a dirty player and talk trash -- even though that's part of the game. To me, let's just line up and let's play."
Sounds like a Steeler to us; yeah, this guy could play for the Steelers.

Here are links ....

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