Despite not playing an official down of college football yet, Jackson State dual-position recruit Travis Hunter was named an FCS preseason All-American to the surprise of many football observers.
On Monday, Hunter was listed as a third-team STATS Perform Preseason All-American as a defensive back, though he is expected to play at wide receiver as well.
The revelation created a minor social media firestorm, with some expressing criticism that an unproven player was selected instead of a more deserving player.
HBCU Sports Senior Editor Kendrick Marshall spoke with The Analyst FCS Senior Editor Craig Haley, who had the most input in selecting the team, to provide insight on why Hunter was one of the 105 players selected.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Kendrick Marshall: What was the rationale behind Hunter being placed on the All-American team?
Craig Haley: “The preseason team as a whole is a projection for the season ahead. It’s not just looking back. I mean obviously, players who’ve been All-Americans in the past are going to warrant that consideration going into the season. But if you’re projecting ahead and Travis Hunter is the No. 1 recruit in the nation this past year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he’s going to be one of the best FCS players in college football.”
Marshall: Based on that, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe he would be one of the best players in the country, right?
Haley: “You’re projecting ahead. I think people do it all the time where they look back and say well, ‘The national champion should be No. 1 until they’re beaten going into the next season in a poll.’ No, you’re projecting ahead. If you pick a team No. 1 in a preseason poll, you’re saying that’s the national champion that season. And if you’re picking a team No. 2, you’re saying, ‘Hey, there’s our championship matchup.’ I think you’re projecting ahead in a preseason poll or with a preseason team. We’re saying that Travis Hunter is going to be exceptional this year.”
Marshall: What do you make of the argument that Travis Hunter shouldn’t be on the team over an upperclassman or someone more deserving?
Haley: “Well, I think you can make that case for sure. But anybody who we’ve got (as) All-American, I don’t think we’ve missed anybody in that regard. If somebody was an All-American last season and returned this season, they are gonna be right there going into the next season. We have great respect for somebody who’s a veteran player and who’s done great. But we also have respect for anybody who’s about to step on the field and is that talented. We’re saying Travis Hunter, if he winds up having an exceptional year, people are gonna look back and say maybe we should have had him on our preseason team.”
Marshall: If he’s as good as everyone thinks he is, there won’t be any issue at all.
Haley: “It’s true. I get the viewpoint that people are going to be surprised about it, but you see it all the time in college basketball. You look at preseason teams these days in college basketball and they have true freshmen on the first team. That’s only five players. There’s no reason not to consider it for other sports, including football.”
Marshall: What was the rationale for putting Hunter on a third team instead of the second or first team?
Haley: “Well, that’s a good question, too. I mean, it is possible that he’s going to have a season where he’s worthy of the first team. At the same time. You know, we do have some players coming back that have been defensive backs who are on the first team. So you know, there are talented players returning that are just as worthy to be considered for the first team.”
Marshall: I would imagine it’s pretty difficult once you’re doing a second and third team to try to distinguish what players would belong on that team. How hard of a process was that to try to do?
Haley: “You start out with a list and it gets very hard. I mean, you can you know, sometimes you’re sitting there thinking, I just can’t believe we’re eliminating this player. When you put out a team, you always hear from people saying, Why isn’t this player on the team? It happens all the time.”
Marshall: So is there a possibility Travis Hunter could be elevated to the first team at the end of the season?
Haley: “If he performs well, of course. You know, anything could happen with anybody. You hope everybody stays healthy. You hope everybody’s playing their best, but I mean, it does have to pan out first before we see how the postseason team turns out.”