March 31, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Tyler Hunter is preparing for the most important role in his young college-football career.
As the likely replacement at nickel back for former Florida State defensive back Mike Harris, Hunter has been charged this spring with filling the void left by a player that rarely made mistakes. Over the course of his two-year FSU career, Harris was known for his non-flashy, effective and technically-sound play covering wide receivers in the slot.
Last year as a true freshman, Hunter had the opportunity to watch, learn and put himself in position to capture the nickel-back job once Harris graduated.
"I backed up Mike last year so I really knew that was going to be kind of my role this year so I'm really looking forward to it," said Harris, who played primarily on special teams in 11 games as a rookie.
In addition to his role as FSU's third cornerback, Hunter is also running with the second team at safety behind incumbent starter Lamarcus Joyner.
The cross-training -- a requirement for many defensive players in coordinator Mark Stoops' scheme -- has afforded Hunter the chance to showcase how skills at multiple positions. According to his head coach, Hunter could also be an effective offensive player if he chose to play on that side of the ball.
"He's a 4.4 guy or a sub-4.4 guy," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He's 200 pounds. He has tremendous flexibility. He's physical. Very instinctive. Great ball skills. Tyler has the ability to play corner, he can play safety, he can play nickel. Tyler can go play receiver in a heartbeat. He could play running back.
"That guy is tremendously athletic."
Hunter admitted the most challenging aspect of playing nickel back is having to guard smaller, quicker wide receivers in the slot -- a task he faces on a daily basis thanks to FSU's impressive depth at the offensive skill positions.
"If I get my technique down pat I will be where I need to be," he said.
Hunter is one of several second-year players that are being asked this spring to contribute and add much-needed depth to a defense that is intent on building off its No. 4 national ranking from a season ago.
Joined by fellow sophomores Nick Waisome and Karlos Williams as well as redshirt freshmen Keelin Smith and Lamarcus Brutus, Hunter and the young defenders will have to play at a high level in 2012 if FSU is going to live up to its lofty expectations as a defense.
"I think we add a lot of depth," Hunter said. "If somebody gets hurt or anything we always are able to step in and compete right where they left."
Florida State will hold its first scrimmage of the spring Saturday at noon. Stay tuned to Seminoles.com for a complete recap of the event from inside Doak Campbell Stadium.