Hunter is ready for a big season

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, September 2, 2010

HATTIESBURG — Former Warren Central safety Chico Hunter’s final season in black and gold starts tonight.

Southern Miss takes on SEC foe South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia and Hunter and the Golden Eagles will get another chance to take down a BCS-conference foe.

Hunter will be playing a big role on the defense, both at his natural position of safety and covering slot receivers in the dime and nickel packages in a spread offense-heavy Conference USA.

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“I feel great,” Hunter said. “I’m ready for the season. As long as I’m getting on the field, I’m OK.”

Last season in 13 games, playing as a nickel back and backup safety, Hunter had 44 stops, one interception and one forced fumble.

USM’s pass defense has been under scrutiny in the past two seasons. Last year, the Golden Eagles gave up 25.8 points per contest. While stout against the run, allowing only 3.6 yards per carry, the Golden Eagles

struggled against the pass. They yielded 261 yards per contest through the air last season and 21 touchdown passes.

That didn’t sit too well with Hunter.

“We’ve got to step up on defense,” Hunter said. “We’d like to score a little more, get some turnovers.”

Another role Hunter will be playing is as a gunner (outside man) on punt coverage. The gunners are the ones who usually arrive at the punt returner first, giving Hunter a chance to land one of his infamously hard hits.

“Special teams is such a big part of the game,” Hunter said. “I love to attack and that’s something you can definitely do on special teams. I’m thinking killshot, knockout, every play.”

The past two years haven’t sat well with Hunter and his teammates. The expectation level in the locker room is sky-high and Hunter hopes to go out on top with a conference championship and possibly more.

“That’d be a dream,” Hunter said. “We’ve definitely got the talent to do it. I can’t say what bowl we’ll go to, but I’m expecting big things out of the defense and the whole Southern Miss program. From the first team meeting, that’s what Coach Fedora has been stressing to us: conference championship.”

As for Hunter’s legacy, he is excited about getting his degree after having a career that was almost cut short before it began thanks to a torn ACL while at Warren Central.

“My high point was just getting the opportunity to play college football,” Hunter said. “I had some injuries and in high school, I had a few problems. But Southern Miss stuck with me. The thing that I got from here, that no one can take from me, is in December, I graduate. If I don’t play another snap, I’ll have my degree.”