Cameron Sutton

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

With three key underclassmen returning, time is now for Vols to make push in SEC East

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The deadline for underclassmen to declare their intentions to enter the 2016 NFL Draft passed yesterday, and Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara opted to pass on a shot at playing on Sundays in order to come back and help Tennessee reclaim some SEC East glory.

Kamara rushed for 698 yards and seven touchdowns for Tennessee last season, playing a solid complementary role alongside Jalen Hurd (1,288 yards, 12 touchdowns). Kamara also added 291 receiving yards and three touchdowns and returned a small handful of punts, with one going for a touchdown. The former Alabama running back transferred into a good spot at Tennessee and will be part of a nice thunder-and-lightning backfield for Tennessee in 2016. Kamara was believed to be liekly to enter the NFL Draft, with the outlook of playing a third-down back role. A return to Tennessee in 2016 could allow him to show off more of his abilities and change the way he is potentially used in the future.

Kamara is joined by junior linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Cameron Sutton as three key underclassmen who will return to play for Butch Jones in 2016. The 2016 season figures to be one of great optimism for the Volunteers as the roster assembled under Jones since his arrival is starting to come together strongly and develop to the point of breaking out. After two straight seasons ending with big bowl margins of victory, the time for Tennessee to begin moving up in the SEC East is now.

Tennessee had the second-best recruiting class in 2015, behind Alabama, and the third best in 2014 (trailing only Alabama and LSU). Rivals currently ranks Tennessee ninth in the SEC and 29th overall, but that could change between now and signing day as well.

Heisman winner Derrick Henry, finalists and more fill Football Writers All-American team

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson,file
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The bulk of the college football award season may be behind us, but the key All-American teams continue to be released in the coming days before the NCAA assembles this year’s list of consensus All-Americans. The Associated Press released its All-American list on Sunday. On Monday it was time for the Football Writers Association of American to release its annual list of All-Americans. Heisman Trophy winning running back from Alabama Derrick Henry was an easy pick for first team honors, as were fellow finalists Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford. McCaffrey did not make the cut at running back, but was given first team honors as a kick returner.

Joining Henrey as first team All-American running backs are Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU. Fournette and Henry each earned first-team honors from the AP as well, while Cook made the second team cut.

First Team Offense

  • QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  • RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
  • RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
  • RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
  • WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
  • WR Josh Doctson, TCU
  • OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
  • OL Joshua Garnett, Stanford
  • OL Jason Springs, Indiana
  • OL Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  • C Ryan Kelly, Alabama

First Team Defense

  • DL Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  • DL Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  • DL Carl Nassib, Penn State
  • DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
  • LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple
  • LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
  • LB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
  • DB Jeremy Cash, Duke
  • DB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  • DB Desmond King, Iowa
  • DB Shawun Lurry, Northern Illinois

First Team Special Teams

  • K Ka’imi Fairbairn, UCLA
  • P Tom Hackett, Utah
  • KR Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
  • PR William Likely, Maryland

Second Team All-America Team

Offense: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State; RB Royce Freeman, Oregon; WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame; WR Roger Lewis, Bowling Green; WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC; OL Jack Conklin, Michigan State; OL Taylor Decker, Ohio State; OL Tyler Johnstone, Oregon; OL Landon Turner, North Carolina; C Jack Allen, Michigan State. Defense: DL Andrew Billings, Baylor; DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon; DL Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State; DL; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; LB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame; LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma; DB Eddie Jackson, Alabama; DB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan; DB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State; DB Darian Thompson, Boise State. Specialists: K Jaden Oberkrom, TCU; P Michael Carrizosa, San José State; KR Evan Berry, Tennessee; PR Cameron Sutton, Tennessee.