Sep 8, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Justin Hunter (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Georgia State Panthers during the second quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
There's a lot of trepidation among Florida fans about facing Tyler Bray when the Gators take the field against Tennessee Saturday evening at 6 p.m. Eastern. But I don't think it's Bray the Gators should be worried about — it's Justin Hunter who should strike fear into every orange and blue heart.
Bray's an excellent talent, admittedly, a guy with an NFL quarterback's arm and body. He can make all the throws, and that's part of the problem: Combine a cannon for an arm with the memory of an aged goldfish, and you get a quarterback who can be accurately called a "daredevil", one whose completion percentage plummets against strong secondaries as the interceptions occur in plural.
Bray doesn't scare me. Justin Hunter scares the crap out of me.
Hunter had already had a good game against Florida (three catches, 60 yards, one TD in 2010 as a freshman) when he came to Gainesville in 2011 with 302 receiving yards and two TDs in two games to his credit. Hunter promptly planted wrong after leaping for his only catch of the day and shredded his ACL in a freak accident, rendering Florida's date with the most talented wide receiver it would see all year a short one.
Hunter seems to be right back where he started now: He has 17 catches (11th nationally) for 219 yards (t-12th) and three TDs (t-6th) in two games in 2012, and looks like the fleet-footed high jumper who is as close to Randy Moss as Tennessee has ever had. And it's going to be tough to double him, not that Will Muschamp ever would, because the Vols have Corradelle Patterson and Zack Rogers and Mychal Rivera to deal with, too. Hunter in one-on-one situations is a nightmare.
Of course, Bray has to get the ball to him, and he's more than capable of doing that. Hunter, like all wideouts who aren't Percy Harvin-style runner/receivers, can be best stopped by stopping his quarterback. To fear Hunter, in part, is to fear Bray, but Florida's deal with big-armed, big-framed Tennessee quarterbacks before: Peyton Manning, obviously, had a cannon, and so did Erik Ainge — they just didn't have chances to use them.
I think Florida can win if Bray throws for 300 yards. I'm less certain Florida can win if Hunter accounts for 120 of them. And if Hunter gets off in a game that the Vols win, you can be sure you will remember him balling more than you do Bray.
Feel free to use this as an open thread for the early afternoon games.