As a Recruit
I've talked about Jabari as a recruit in some of my recruiting analysis articles because he was a significant recruiting win for the Jackets. As the #15 recruit in the state of Georgia and #187 nationally(according to Rivals), he is the highest ranked recruit Georgia Tech has signed in the last 5 years. Hunt-Days' other notable offers came from Auburn, South Carolina, and Kentucky. While reading Jabari's Rivals profile, I came across an interestingly prophetic quote by analyst Barry Every:
It may take a redshirt year for him to continue to develop as a linebacker. And don't be surprised if he grows into a weakside defensive end at the next level. Either way this high effort football player should end up being a success.
Well, almost prophetic at least. Hunt-Days did transition to the defensive line, but few could have predicted his full transition to Defensive Tackle.
On the Flats
Despite the ranking and high ceiling, Hunt-Days was seen as raw prospect, and took a redshirt his freshman year. However, he entered this redshirt freshman year with a lot of promise and hype. This continued when he earned the starting job at Middle Linebacker. After finishing 3rd on the team in tackles and earning Freshman All-American accolades, the hype surrounding Hunt-Days continued to increase, and he started to get looks from draft experts.
Jabari took a bit of a Sophomore slump in 2013. He was continuing to grow, and wasn't a good fit for MLB in new Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof's 4-3 defense. Hunt-Days was removed from starting full time, and saw much more limited time as the season drew onward. At the end of the season, it was decided that Hunt-Days would be moved to Weakside Defensive End due to his growth and the need to find a replacement for the graduating Jeremiah Attaochu. After a promising Spring game, it looked like a successful transition.
Then the bomb dropped.
Hunt-Days was declared academically ineligible soon after the end of the Spring 2014 semester. and the future looked grim along the DL. Luckily, KeShun Freeman stepped up and had a big year, which softened the blow a bit. At this point, it would have been easy for Hunt-Days to give up on his career or transfer, but he stuck with it, and continued with the team despite losing his scholarship. As he worked on the scout team, the updates started to roll in about his growth. 265 lbs became 280 became 290, and all of a sudden Jabari was no longer a MLB, but a DT. DT has traditionally been one of Tech's weakest positions, so additional depth was welcome. However, after spending a year on the scout team, fans wondered just how effective Hunt-Days would be in a brand new position. He more than answered that question during spring practice, turning the heads of both fans and teammates. I suggest you go and check out some clips on his Instagram(You'll need to follow him to see them). They're incredible. In one, he chases down Tim Byerly from the backside and drags him down easily.
Following this past semester, Hunt-Days was given his scholarship back and it looks like he will be academically reinstated after a strong summer semester.
While what fans have seen so far has been impressive, it is currently difficult to discuss Hunt-Days' future in the NFL. He simply hasn't played a single snap at DT in college. Therefore, instead of talking about what he is as a prospect, I'll talk about what I think he can be. At 6'3", he has the height to be a 3-tech in a 4-3 defense, but the unknown part is exactly how much he weighs. There have been a lot of reports ranging from 275 to 290 lbs. Even 290 lbs would be a bit undersized, but it would be enough. The remarkable thing about Jabari Hunt-Days is that it seems he hasn't lost much of his quickness with all of that added weight. He gets off the ball quickly and can chase down plays in pursuit. That kind of freak athleticism will be highly valued by NFL teams, and he could quickly shoot up draft boards with an impressive combine. I believe there was another undersized guy in the 2014 NFL draft who similarly shot up draft boards after a freak combine. What was his name again?
Oh yeah, Aaron Donald.