Two things were very obvious after watching Sunday’s spring game at Jackson State University on ESPNU. Travis Hunter is really, really good and Deion Sanders is a master at leveraging exposure.
First with Hunter. On his very first possession on the field he converted a big first down, showing the speed that made him the No. 1 high school player in the country last year. Shortly thereafter he showed the hands and mid-air body control of an elite receiver catching a touchdown from Shedeur Sanders.
He would later go untouched on a 80 yard touchdown from Sanders and it wasn’t clear if he was running at his top speed during the route. But he wasn’t done.
On defense he picked off back up quarterback JP Andrade, looking as if the route was intended for him all along. In situational drills at the end of the game he even picked off starting quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
That’s who he is
In his first national appearance on the field as a Jackson State Tiger, Hunter showed that he is as advertised. While this game was against “friendly fire” in some respects, it was clear that his athleticism was on a different plane.
“That’s who he is. He does not wait for a game or spring game to be dominant. He’s like that at practice,” Sanders said.
When I asked Sanders afterward if he sees any scenario in which Hunter doesn’t play on both sides of the ball he turned to a fable in response.
“Where I couldn’t?” Sanders let the question hang in the air before continuing. “My second favorite book next to the Bible was the little engine that could,” he finished.
Sounds like headaches for offenses and defenses across the SWAC this season.
With his dominance on the field Hunter still had a message for doubters who questioned his decision to attend JSU.
“It means a lot. Everyone doubting me saying that there isn’t any competition out here and I’m not going to improve. Right now they are going to see I can improve. It’s a lot of competition out here,” Hunter told Charles Bishop from Thee Pregame Show.
No exposure without access
Maybe another coach in America has given as much media access as Deion Sanders did on Sunday but it doesn’t immediately jump into my mind. Football coaches close ranks more than any other sport in college athletics but not Sanders. He wore a live microphone for the entirety of the game and was basically the fourth member of the broadcast team by the end of the game.
Any potential athlete or parent across the country got a true sense of what it was like to be inside the JSU program, from their living room. Sanders said exposure can’t come without access.
“I’m extremely thankful, I’m appreciative. I’m happy with the ESPN things, that’s wonderful for us to have that platform. It opens up tremendous doors. It shows you the culture, who we are,” Sanders said.
Sanders wasn’t just an open book for the television audience but the JSU faithful as well. He was in the tailgate trying out plates and answering questions from the fans during the game. He even answered questions from Instagram on television during the broadcast.
“We want you to have that type of access, we’re always screaming that we don’t have that type of access. No, we’re not recognized because you don’t give us the platform and when we have the platform, we don’t use it wisely. We’re just trying to use it wisely,” he continued.
Get more four stars
Not only was the television broadcast a great recruiting tool, but many recruits were there in person. JSU officials say there were roughly 150 recruits in attendance at the spring game. There were also online commitments on Sunday. Four star wide receiver Robert Lockhart III announced his commitment during the game via social media.
But everything wasn’t perfect on Sunday, it never is in football. One of the areas that has been under constant scrutiny during Sanders’ time at Jackson State has been the offensive line. It’s an area that Deion Sanders is still looking to find improvement in.
“We had some great moments running the ball and throwing the football as well offensively. We went back to our old selves and gave up a few sacks that I don’t like seeing, we got to get a little more physical, a little more nasty upfront.”