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Rumblings Scouting Report: Houston DE Phillip Hunt

Houston DE Phillip Hunt (Houston Cougar Athletics)

As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, the editorial staff at Buffalo Rumblings will begin profiling draft prospects that may end up being potential targets of the Buffalo Bills.  Kurupt's back on the defensive side of the ball profiling Houston DE Phillip Hunt.

Clearly, one of the biggest needs identified by the Rumblings community and Bills fans in general is defensive end, and more specifically, a pass rushing threat. Today we will jump away from potential first round draft picks at the position and look at a potential mid-round selection: Phillip Hunt from the University of Houston.

Hunt has been an overlooked prospect by many as the Draft quickly nears, especially by the NFL Combine committee, which did not invite him to participate in last month's event.  Don't blame a lack of talent or production; Hunt is a good player who really produced the past three seasons.  But is he good enough to help our pass rush and develop into a quality NFL player?

To get a better handle on Phillip Hunt, we are joined this morning by Michael Murphy, who covers Houston Cougar Athletics for The Houston Chronicle.  Please visit his UH Athletics blog for any past and present Cougar football information.

Phillip Hunt - Defensive End, Houston
6'1", 267 lbs., 4.65-second 40 yard dash (unofficial numbers)
34.5 career sacks, 53.5 tackles for loss
2008 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year

Powerful with a lower center of gravity... long arms... fluid athlete that moves well in and out of the line of scrimmage... good speed with a quick first step... has a ton of experience, having started 40 games the past three seasons... extremely productive... good motor and plays with a lot of effort... just keeps improving and getting better every year

Relatively short for the position and somewhat slightly built... needs to add upper body strength and work in the weight room to be able to eventually grow into an every down player... not particularly strong at the point of contact and needs to work on his technique... a bit stiff and tight-hipped... there are some concerns about the level of competition he faced at Houston

What did Murphy have to say about Hunt's strengths and weakness?

BR: Not many folks in Buffalo are terribly familiar with Hunt's game. What do you view as his strengths and weaknesses?

MM: Hunt's greatest asset is his speed. He runs a legit 4.5 and has been working hard to get even faster. He has adequate strength, but probably needs more time in the weight room to prepare for the next level. I don't think getting bigger will help if it impacts his speed, but added strength is going to be a must.

BR: What part of his game might Hunt need to work on to be an effective NFL player?

MM: Probably fundamentals like footwork. He got by many times on pure speed and flat-out meanness, but when facing NFL-sized linemen, the fundamentals like footwork and such are going to be essential.

BR: Philip was obviously productive in college; do you attribute any of that production to the level of competition?  Do you think that the competition will in any way hurt his reputation in scouts' eyes?

MM: Conference USA has produced recent talents like Donnie Avery, DeAngelo Williams, Matt Forte, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Roddy White, Quintin Demps, Kevin Kolb, Aundrae Allison, Chris Johnson, Jackie Battle, Rex Hadnot, Stanford Routt, Ahmad Bradshaw and Garrett Mills. So P-Hunt has been up against some good ones.

I think the biggest hurdle will be the perception that C-USA plays zero defense, so guys on that side of the ball will be devalued somewhat. But Hunt is a different breed of cat, so I think he'll be a surprise for the team that drafts him.

NFL Comparison: Darryl Tapp, Seattle; poor man's Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis, or Terrell Suggs, Baltimore.

Much, MUCH more after the jump, including exclusive information from Hunt's college defensive line coach, former Bills DE Jim Jeffcoat.

Seeing some tape on Hunt and reading about his strengths and weakness, I can't help but think of Darryl Tapp of the Seahawks.  Coming out of Virginia Tech in 2006, Tapp was a shorter (6'1"), somewhat lighter (260 lbs), and productive defensive end that was known for a quick first step and being an extremely hard worker.  The comparisons to other slightly undersized and more productive rush ends are also there:

BR: Hunt's measurables (height, weight, speed) are comparative to elite speed rushers such as Dwight Freeney, for example. Which current NFL player might you compare him to?

MM: I hate to make comparisons because what starts out as a quick reference soon becomes a straight-line comparison, which isn't fair to the player. While certainly not nearly as polished, perhaps guys with similar size/speed specs like Freeney or maybe a Terrell Suggs-type. But he has a way to go, so I hope people aren't expecting Freeney or Suggs. Not yet.

Other Interesting Tidbits
Besides all the strengths and weaknesses and comparisons, who exactly is Phillip Hunt?  Let's find out a little more about the man behind the facemask:

BR: What is Phillip like in the locker room?  How is his work ethic, his desire, his passion for the game, etc.?  Have you spoken to him in the past, and what was your impression of him?

MM: P-Hunt was one of the most-popular players on the team, a guy who knew when to keep things loose and when to bear down and get everyone mean. He always came to play, too. I got to know him pretty well, not only because he was one of the best players on the team (and in the conference), but because he was accessible, too. I started doing video inteviews for my UH blog, and P-Hunt was always happy to give me a few minutes, and he always had fun with it.

Phillip was also recently interviewed by Patriots Daily (boo!), and had a lot to say about his preparation for the draft.  Even though it's a Patriots site (grrr), do yourself a favor and check it out.  Here are some of the Q&A's about how Hunt feels about himself:

PD: What do you think it’s going to take to convince scouts that you’re someone they should take a good look at?

PH: 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.

PD: Do you have any specific area, any specific teams you’d like to go to?

PH: 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.

Does he fit the Bill?
Once again, can he rush the passer?  Yes.  That's all I need to know.  Beyond that, I really like what Hunt can offer, both in terms of potential on-field production, but also based on what it'd take to get him.  He looks like a situational pass rusher and special teams player initially, but also looks like he has the ability to grow into an NFL starter with some strength work and continued good coaching.  Right now, it looks like Hunt is a Round 4-6 prospect, but will likely move up with a strong performance at his Pro Day.  If we can secure his services with a fourth round pick, as a second pass rush pick, I, for one, will be a happy Bills fan.

The other question that needs to be asked is whether or not Hunt is a good fit for the Tampa 2 scheme we still have in place.  Here are a couple of opinions on that question:

BR: How do you think Hunt would fit into a Tampa 2 scheme at the NFL level?

MM: Given his speed, I would say that he'd be a perfect fit. Absolutely perfect.

And from his defensive line coach at UH, former Bill Jim Jeffcoat:

Do you think Hunt would be a fit in a Cover 2 defensive scheme?

JJ:  Oh most definitely.  He would be a really good fit there, especially because he would be lined up wider.  If he were to be in a more traditional 4-3, he might struggle some, because he would be lined up tighter inside, and his length and lack of bulk would hinder him some.  But he'll keep working out, and he'll fill out some more.

Jeffcoat added his general opinions on his prize pupil as well:

Phillip is up to around 267 pounds now, and he has long arms.  He has a really good motor too, and plays with a lot of effort.  The thing with Phillip is that he runs really well; he's got good speed, and quickness too.  He's a great teammate, and likes to play the game and likes to study it too.  He's a playmaker, whether it be running after the ball or chasing the quarterback.  And, because he runs so well, he'll be a force on special teams.

Other Scouting Reports and Rankings
New Era Scouting
(#17 DE, fourth round projection)
CDS Draft (sixth round projection)
FFToolbox (Round 4-6 projection)
NFLDraftScout (#16 DE, sixth round projection)
Walter Football (#12, Round 3-4 projection)

Once again, I'd like to thank Michael Murphy for his insight on Phillip Hunt. 

And stay tuned to Buffalo Rumblings for a very special guest this afternoon!