The New No. 11?

The Volunteers have a new No. 11 on the football field. Is Bryce Brown back? No. Justin Hunter is. After being cleared by the NCAA to return to practice, Hunter stepped onto Haslam Field not wearing No. 87, but No. 11.

Tennessee fans thought No. 11 left the Vols long ago when former running back Bryce Brown announced he would be transferring to Kansas State to play with his brother.

In the words of Lee Corso, "not so fast my friend."

Derek Dooley finally got the answer he was looking for Tuesday morning when freshman wide receiver Justin Hunter was cleared to return to practice.

Hunter stepped back on Haslam Field on Tuesday afternoon, but not with his usual No. 87 jersey. Instead the freshman standout was wearing No. 11. It is unclear whether the switch will be permanent.

"It was a huge relief," said Derek Dooley. "There were a lot of nervous coaches. We were confident all along that he was going to get cleared. It was just a question of when."

Dooley said Hunter has had his eye on Saturday's game plan against Tennessee-Martin. The head coach was concerned more with Hunter's conditioning after having missed numerous practices in a row.

"I was most concerned about his being in shape, but we have tightened down the game plan a little bit and he has been looking it over I am sure," Dooley said.

"It will hit him in a couple of days probably. The first day is always easy."

Although frustrated at times, Dooley tried to turn it into a positive situation considering Hunter's nagging foot injury from this past track season.

"He was a little bit hurting in the foot, so we took it as an opportunity to get triple the treatment," said Dooley. "You just have to find how to turn it into a positive and he did that. He handled it great."

Senior wide receiver Gerald Jones expected to see a bit of a dropoff from the freshman after missing practice for several days, but that didn't seem to be the case.

"I told him I thought he was going to lose a step," said Jones. "It's kind of hard when you don't catch balls for about a week, but he caught the ball well.

"I saw a couple balls that he probably would have caught that he didn't catch, but he didn't lose a lot. He looked good."

Jones realizes that despite Hunter being a youngster his return is vital to the Vols' offense.

"It's big time because we know he can help us right away," said Jones. "Justin Hunter is one of those guys that can help us right away."

Dooley expects his young receiver to be ready for Saturday's game. To what extent is the question?

"He did good," said Dooley. "He will be ready for Saturday. I don't know how much."

Hunter and the Vols will return to the practice field Wednesday afternoon to continue preparation for Saturday's season opener at Neyland Stadium.

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