Vols' Justin Hunter turning pro


As expected, Tennessee's Justin Hunter is headed to the NFL.

The Vols' junior receiver tweeted out Monday that he had indeed declared early for the draft. His receiving cohort this season at Tennessee, Cordarrelle Patterson, is expected to follow suit, although Patterson hasn't made any statements publicly.

While Hunter is on his way out, Tennessee junior offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James confirmed Monday that he would be returning to school for his senior season.

"I believe in what Coach [Butch] Jones is preaching and what he's about," James told ESPN's Joe Schad.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projects Hunter as the 22nd overall pick in April's NFL draft. Hunter caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns this season, but was also plagued by some untimely drops. He was returning from a torn ACL that forced him to miss all but the first three games of the 2011 season.

Patterson, who played just one season at Tennessee after transferring from junior college, is No. 11 overall on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper's latest Big Board of the top 25 draft prospects.

The feeling in and around the Vols' program is that junior quarterback Tyler Bray will also declare early for the draft.