by Chris Warner
In order to avoid getting bypassed by NFL teams on draft day, players tagged with the dreaded “tweener” label need to excel. Houston’s Phillip Hunt continues to do just that.
Hunt, an undersized defensive end, turned the heads of as many pro scouts as he did offensive tackles in 2008 on his way to becoming the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. He fit in an interview with PD between workouts as he prepared for his pro day later this month.
I’m curious if you can tell me how a guy who has 14 sacks in 2008 and 10.5 sacks in 2007 doesn’t get the kind of national attention he might deserve. Do you think it’s something where Conference USA gets overlooked a little bit?
Yeah, I think that’s part of the problem. A lot of people speculate that the opponents in Conference USA are not as talented as the players in other conferences such as SEC and ACC, but there’s some pretty good players in that conference. You got guys like (current NFL running back) DeAngelo Williams coming out, and guys like myself and a lot of other guys that have a lot of potential and just are overlooked by a lot of scouts. Just because of the conference.
What do you think it’s going to take to convince scouts that you’re someone they should take a good look at?
Well, my pro day is on the 27th of this month. So, I think (if) I put up good numbers at the pro day, some of the best in the nation, that will show that I’m athletic, or more athletic than guys in other conferences that are being ranked higher than me right now. I think my pro day will play a huge role at draft time.
What do you think your numbers are going to be? How often have you been working out?
I’ve been working out pretty good. I should have a 40-inch vertical. I should run a 4.6 in the 40, and the shuttle drill should be like a 4.68. I’ve put up some pretty good numbers, and I’m competing with the best in the country, so it should look pretty good.
Now, you’re about 6-1, 260, is that right?
So how does that guy get to a quarterback 14 times over a season from the defensive end spot?
I’m way more agile than the average offensive lineman, and I have a good burst off the ball…Combined with my athleticism, that just (helps) me get more sacks than a lot of guys. Just the determination and will to want to pass rush is another key to it, too.
Do you have an array of pass (rush) moves, or are you mostly a speed rusher?
I have an array of pass rush moves. Most of the time I just use my hands, and whatever position that gets me in, I just go from there.
Have you talked to anybody about moving to a different position in the NFL?
I talked to a lot of scouts, and they just asked me what I think about it. I’m going to try and work a little bit at outside linebacker, too, as well as D-end. I tell you, I could play a little outside linebacker in the NFL.
What teams have you talked to about that?
Only teams that were down (in Houston) for the East-West Shrine Game, like Jacksonville, Carolina, Washington and Minnesota. I talked to all those different teams, and a lot more, too. They just asked me how I’d feel moving to outside linebacker, or do I like playing with my hand in the dirt as a defensive end.
Did you talk to the Patriots at all?
The Patriots? No, I never talked to the Patriots.
How do you think that transition would be, moving to outside linebacker? Have you ever played that position before?
No, I never played it, but I’m pretty sure just practicing on it, and my athleticism, I think I can transfer (to it well).
Do you think it helps having played a different defense your senior year than in previous years?
Yeah, I think that helps a lot, too, and just knowing where I am on the field when I have to spot-drop, knowing how to read the receivers and the quarterback when I drop back. I think it helped a lot my senior year.
Could you talk a little bit about that, about (assistant defensive line) Coach Jim Jeffcoat and what he brought to the Cougars?
Coach Jim Jeffcoat, he was a great coach. He came in and he taught us hands-on how to use our hands well. Just having his appreciation for the game, and a lot of players looked up to him because he won so many Super Bowls and he was a great player for the Cowboys. A lot of people didn’t want to let him down, so we’d go all-out for him. He coached us well, and he brought a lot of enthusiasm to the team. He helped us win a lot of games.
Do you think he’s going to help Houston get noticed a little more in the future?
Well, I’m not sure about that, because I know Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and his staff. Coach Sumlin, he’s an awesome coach as well, and then the players that he has down there, like (QB) Case Keenum, (RB) Bryce Beall, (WR) Tyron Carrier and all those guys, they’re high-character, great athletes. I think they’ll bring U of H up as well as Coach Jeffcoat will bring them up.
Now that you’re working out for your pro day and getting ready for the draft, what’s your schedule like day-to-day?
I work out twice a day: once in the morning at 9:15, and then once at two o’clock. After that, I just wind down and watch film of games that I’ve played, and watch films on my technique, on how to run the 40 and different techniques on how to vertical jump. Just different aspects of pro day.
When you watch game film, what are you looking for?
I’m looking for what I need to improve on…as a player, try to find out what are my strengths and what are my weaknesses as a player, and just work on that.
Do you think it would be a big adjustment for the pro game in terms of defensive schemes?
Well, I don’t know…I figure I can play the run and the pass as a defensive lineman, and if they want to move me to outside linebacker, I’m pretty sure I can adjust well to dropping back sometimes as an outside linebacker. It shouldn’t be too hard. It doesn’t look hard, but I mean, you never can tell until you go and play in the NFL.
Do you have any specific area, any specific teams you’d like to go to?
No. Whoever drafts me, I just want them to know I’m a hard worker, I’m determined, and I have a passion for the game. I just love playing the game. I just want to go anywhere I can make the team better.
Sounds good. Phil, thanks very much for your time today. I appreciate it.
All right. Appreciate you, too.