Hunter back and better than ever

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Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter looked to be on his way to an All-American season in 2011 opening the year with 17 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns (18.5 yards per catch).

Then the catch that rocked Knoxville, a 12-yard curl, ended Hunter's season at No. 16 Florida (9/17), but nearly 11 months later the 6-foot-4, 200 pounder is back and better than ever.

"Rehab was hard, but I am really thankful (the training staff) helped me out during the process," Hunter told reporters Thursday. "My knee feels real good right now. I think I'm 100 percent. I have been out there running with the team and everything with no pain, no little tweaks or anything like that. I think everything is good."

Hunter, who participated in a limited role during spring practice, has battled back this summer and may have even pushed his game to new heights according to teammates.

"I think he's better," sophomore safety Brian Randolph said. "Justin Hunter is back to his usual self. I think he actually got better. He seems to be back to normal. His routes are quick and very swift. He can pretty much get any (defensive back) he wants to get at any time."

Chatter has even circulated that during a visit to Rocky Top, former All-American safety and Kansas City Chief, Eric Berry worked one-on-one with Hunter and had his hands full throughout the workout.

The junior wideout and Virginia Beach, Va., native led the Southeastern Conference in receiving yards per game (104.7) before the injury last fall, but he still has yet to prove he can be an every-down receiver at the college level.

"I think it is far to say that his knee is fine," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "Now he has to get the pads on and get hit. He has to be able to go twelve games and be able to produce, which he hasn't. This will be his first time that we depend on him every game and can you do it?"

And while Tennessee is set to open fall camp Friday at 2:15 p.m. at Haslam Field, it is hard for Hunter, a track and field high jump specialist to ignore the Thirtieth Olympiad taking place this month in London, England, but in the end football comes first.

"I know if I had worked on it and gotten to the Olympics, I would have missed a couple of games and that wouldn't have been best for the team," Hunter said. "When I got hurt, all I was thinking about was football. Track didn't even enter my mind, it was all football."

Chris Price is a staff writer for He was previously an intern for the site for two years before graduating from the University of Tennessee. He joined the InsideTennessee team in 2009.

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