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Justin Hunter tweets he's 'declared' for NFL Draft

By Jerry Hinnen | Staff Writer

It would be hard for Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter to make his intentions regarding the 2013 NFL Draft much clearer than this, wouldn't it?

But just in case it wasn't clear enough, Hunter also responded to teammate Derrick Furlow's request for clarification ("u gone?") in the affirmative ("yea man").

And so Butch Jones heads into his 2013 debut season without one of his "big three" offensive stars, all of whom -- Tyler Bray and Cordarrelle Patterson have yet to announce their plans -- could bolt for the draft.

But Hunter might be the most purely talented of any of the three, and his departure -- even if it's hardly a surprise, given the total turnover on the Vol coaching staff -- is a huge blow for Jones' efforts to revive the Vols in Year 1. Hunter led the team in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2012, finishing with 73 catches for 1,083 yards and nine scores. He was named second-team All-SEC by both the coaches and AP.

It's a testament to the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Hunter's immense potential that even those numbers and honors were considered something of a mild disappointment as Patterson's all-around playmaking gave him the most substantial "buzz" in the Vol receiving corps. That would have seemed unthinkable in Hunter's 2010 breakout freshman season (only 16 receptions, but seven of them going for touchdowns and for an average of 26 yards) or in the first few weeks of the 2011 season, when Hunter seemed primed for All-American honors before a torn ACL cut his season short.

Even after the injury and his solid-but-not-spectacular 2012, though, some NFL team should make Hunter's decision to come out a year early worth his while; CBSSports.com's prospect rankings list him as the No. 5 wideout in the class of 2013 and a projected second-rounder.

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