Offensive lineman Ryan Hunter reacts to his team making a first down during the spring football game at the Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio. BLADE/LORI KING
BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team’s roster includes one of the top-ranked players in next year’s draft.
That is Ryan Hunter, a senior offensive lineman who is a native of Thunder Bay, Ont. That makes him eligible for the Canadian Football League draft next spring, and CFL teams have noticed.
Marshall Ferguson, a former CFL quarterback who is considered the “Mel Kiper” of that league’s draft, ranked Hunter as the No. 3 prospect heading into this year’s draft.
“Hunter is renowned in the Mid-American Conference as a mauling offensive guard that should draw plenty of scouts’ attention this season,” Ferguson wrote in a late August story that revealed Hunter’s ranking among CFL prospects.
Hunter said the CFL draft is not on his mind right now.
“I’ve had a couple of people send me the link to those rankings,” he admitted. “But it’s a long season with a lot of time to go, and a lot can change.
“Once I’m done playing as a Falcon, then I’ll worry about that.”
Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks has started Hunter at left tackle the first three weeks this season, and Jinks said Hunter has played a role when the offense has had success.
“If you notice, we’ve been running a lot at him,” Jinks said. “He’s a big reason when we have success running the ball.”
Hunter is a former weightlifter who uses his strength to move defensive linemen. But he also is a versatile performer: Of his 29 career starts with the Falcons, 14 came at left guard (in 2015), 12 are at right tackle (last season) and three this year at left tackle.
“He’s our ace in the hole,” Jinks said. “If someone goes down, or if a younger player at tackle is really coming on, we know we can flip Ryan to another position.
“He gives us a sense of relief because of his ability to play different positions.”
Hunter hesitated when asked about his favorite position on the line.
“I’m not sure I have a favorite position, because I also seem to move to another one after six months or so,” Hunter said. “After a few weeks you get comfortable with a position.
“It’s all about switching your stance and getting used to the footwork.”
Jinks also singled out Hunter for praise as a team leader.
“When he was thrust into the starting lineup last year, he earned the respect of his teammates,” Jinks said of Hunter. “On a good offensive line, he may have played at the highest level among those five linemen.
“He always talks about how he had to earn it, and how he had to be ready when he got his shot. I think that’s a great testimony to his character, and it’s a great message to other kids.
“That, and his versatility, could earn him a spot in a camp on this side of the border.”
While choosing between the NFL and CFL might be in his future, the 6-foot-4, 325-pounder said it’s not on his mind right now.
“I see the scouts [from both leagues] at practices, and hopefully they’re taking positive notes,” Hunter said. “I just try to focus on the practice at hand and the next game.
“If you worry too much about the outside stuff, it’s going to affect how you play.”
Hunter said his goals for right now include helping the Falcons earn their first win of the season when they play Saturday at Middle Tennessee, then winning a MAC crown.
“I’m not an individual goals type of guy,” Hunter said. “I’ve been an offensive lineman my whole life.
“I’d rather we win games, score touchdowns, keep quarterbacks upright and give running backs holes to run through.
“If my tape at the end of the year shows I’m good enough to play at the next level, I will.”
INJURY REPORT: The Falcons have a generally clean bill of health entering the Middle Tennessee game on Saturday.
Defensive lineman Gus Schwieterman, who missed last week’s game at Northwestern, is expected to play Saturday. Running back Andrew Clair, who also did not play against the Wildcats, will be a game-time decision.
Meanwhile, linebacker Aaron Banks and offensive lineman Lorenzo Taborn, who played at Northwestern despite injuries, will play against the Blue Raiders.