For some players, the jump from the lower levels of college football to a Power 5 conference might be a challenge.
Colorado isn’t expecting Travis Hunter to have much of an issue.
A 6-foot-1, 175-pound receiver and cornerback, Hunter transferred to CU this winter after playing his true freshman season at Jackson State. But, he wasn’t the typical Jackson State recruit.
Rated the No. 1 overall recruit in the country for the 2022 class, Hunter was recruited by the top teams in the country but went to JSU to play for then-Tigers head coach Deion Sanders. Once Sanders took the head coaching job in Boulder in December, Hunter followed him.
“I thought Travis Hunter was as good a player coming out of high school as there was in this country,” said CU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, who came to the Buffs from Alabama. “He was as highly recruited as anybody that we recruited. We tried to recruit him at Alabama. They recruited him all over. So, he definitely has the ability.”
Hunter’s ability won’t limit him to one side of the ball, either.
Although rated as the No. 1 cornerback in the country in the 2022 class, Hunter is an exceptional receiver and he’s been working with the offense in the early going of spring practices, which began on Sunday.
“He’s gonna be able to help us on both sides of the ball,” offensive coordinator Sean Lewis said. “He has a very unique skill set that’s going to help the team in a lot of different phases.
“Offensively, he needs to do a great job just refining his route running because he’s one of the freakiest athletes on any field he’s ever stepped on.”
Lewis is aiming to pair Hunter’s athleticism with strong technique.
“We’re gonna get on the field in a very competitive league with really elite (defensive backs) and when he comes across a DB as a wide receiver, particularly, where talent is equal, well, how are you going to win?” Lewis said. “That’s where it comes down to techniques and fundamentals in your approach and your work that you do. So, as he continues to trend the right way, I think he’s gonna be able to add some value, again, in all phases of the game.”
Kelly said he’s coached some players who played on both sides of the ball. In fact, at Alabama, Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith was “probably one of our better corners,” Kelly said. Smith was never needed at corner, though, and focused on receiver with the Tide.
Kelly has no doubt Hunter can play both positions well at CU.
“Guys can play both positions and especially when you’re wired the right way and Travis is definitely wired that way,” Kelly said.
As for how Hunter splits his time, Kelly said, “I think coach Prime will manage it like he sees fit, the percentage of time that he spends with what group.”
For about two months, defensive lineman Shane Cokes was planning on Patrick Hill being his position coach. Then, Hill left CU and took a job with the Minnesota Vikings.
CU announced Hill’s replacement, Sal Sunseri, just two weeks ago. Despite the late change, it’s been a smooth transition.
“There was no drop off there,” Cokes said. “I mean, he’s a great coach, and he’s pushed me hard already. I appreciate that a lot from him.”
Sunseri, 63, is a long-time coach who spent the past four years with Kelly at Alabama.
“One of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with,” Kelly said. “He’s a great, great football coach, and he’s very intense. He’s old school. Players have always loved him. They’ve loved his style. They love the way he coaches. He brings a lot to our staff and we’re grateful that he’s here.”
CU has had only three practices, but Cokes said he appreciates Sunseri’s style.
“I love it. It’s tough love,” Cokes said. “You’ve just got to take it as coaching. Don’t listen to the tone of it; listen to what he’s saying and get better for it. And I appreciate it every day.”
CU was off Thursday and will return to the practice field on Friday before taking a pause for spring break next week. … Sanders, who had two toes amputated in the fall of 2021, has been using a Segway at times to get around the practice field. “I mean, when you’ve got eight toes, do what you got to do to get around,” Lewis said with a laugh.
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