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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Gators added one of the biggest names in recruiting to their 2008 class Tuesday as Buford (Ga.) High's Omar Hunter verbally committed.

Hunter - rated the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle and a five-star prospect by Scout.com - decommitted from Notre Dame over the holiday break and then repeatedly said UF was his new top school.

Buford coach Jess Simpson said Hunter chose the Fighting Irish in July because he was tired of the media and the constant barrage of phone calls.

"He just wanted to get it over with," Simpson said.

After Hunter decommitted from Notre Dame, Georgia began to show interest in the in-state prospect, but Simpson said the Bulldogs didn't have enough scholarship room to fit the big man.

With the acquisition of Hunter, UF gains its first true defensive tackle of the 2008 class, a position filled last season by a rotation of players ranging from experienced upperclassmen to freshman Mike Pouncey - a converted offensive lineman.

Line play was the root of many of the Gators' defensive problems, as a lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks stressed an already suspect secondary. Hunter could help cure some of those woes next season, Scout.com recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said.

"[UF has] got a glaring need for [solid defensive line play]," Newberg said. "And I rarely say this, but he is physically ready to play."

UF will also return two five-star defensive tackles from the 2007 recruiting class next season. John Brown, who did not play after complications with NCAA eligibility at the beginning of last season, and Torrey Davis, who saw action in 11 games, were both ranked in the top 5 at the position out of high school.

Newberg believes that the combined presence of Brown, Davis and Hunter gives UF's defensive line the potential to be special.

At 6-foot-2 and 297 pounds, Hunter is already heavier than all but one of the Gators' returning defensive linemen - Pouncey. Simpson believes Hunter possesses great athletic ability along with his size.

"I've never seen a guy that big be able to dunk a basketball so easily," Simpson said. "He's the most powerful and explosive player I've seen."

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Hunter's freakish abilities showed through best during the Kirk Herbstreit Challenge in Canton, Ohio, when he brought an opposing quarterback down nine times and eventually knocked him out of the game.

"That was probably the best game I've ever seen him play," Simpson said.

Simpson says he'll always remember Hunter for his level-headedness in spite of his natural talents.

"He treated both the worst and best players on the team the same," Simpson said. "He's extremely humble and well-liked."

Verbal commitments are non-binding until a letter of intent is signed on or after Feb. 6, National Signing Day.

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