One thing is for certain, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney misses sophomore star wide receiver Justin Hunter more than most can imagine.
Hunter, who amassed 314 yards receiving and two touchdowns in just three games, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the Volunteers 33-23 loss at No. 16 Florida on the team's first offensive play from scrimmage.
Hunter was able to address the media for the first time since suffering the injury and undergoing successful surgery. And while Hunter hasn't been on the practice field as a player, he has been everywhere around the Tennessee football program ever since the injury.
"The first thing I always say is how can you improve by not playing," Derek Dooley said. "He can improve with his weight lifting and his physical strength and he can improve with the mental part of the game. There is never a time where you can't improve as a player."
Hunter, who still leads the SEC in receiving yards per game (104.7), is still in a heavy knee brace and is walking on crutches during the early stages of his physical therapy.
"I think he is doing well," Dooley said. "I am ready for him to get off the crutches. That will make me feel better when he is walking around, but every indication that I am getting is he is recovering well. He is staying around the team, he brings good energy around the guys and that is important."
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder and former All-SEC freshman coaches selection is slotted for a mid-March return to practice, which will make him available for spring training camp.
Watch this video interview as Hunter addresses the media for the first time since the injury.