KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Highly regarded college football publication Athlon Sports announced its preseason All-American teams on Wednesday, naming five Tennessee football players across its first, third and fourth teams.
Tennessee’s five representatives across the four squads ties them for the fourth most in the country and third in the SEC, trailing only Alabama (8) and LSU (6). The Vols have three first-team selections — tied with Florida State for the second most behind Alabama’s four — one third-teamer and one fourth-team choice.
Junior Derek Barnett (defensive end) landed on the All-American first team defense. Additionally, the nation’s top returning kick returners in junior Evan Berry(kickoff) and senior Cameron Sutton (punt) rounded out UT’s first team selections as special teams picks. Senior Jalen Reeves-Maybin (linebacker) was placed on the third team defense, and junior Jalen Hurd (running back) was a fourth team offensive selection.
Pass rusher Barnett and linebacker Reeves-Maybin represent the Vols on Athlon’s defensive All-American teams. An All-SEC second team selection after ranking third in the conference in sacks (10.0) last season, Barnett will enter his junior season tied for eighth in career sacks at Tennessee with 20. He trails the great Reggie White, UT’s all-time sacks leader, by only 12. Reeves-Maybin, one of the most consistent linebackers in the SEC, returns for his senior season after ranking seventh in the SEC in total tackles (105) and ninth in tackles per game (8.1) a year ago. The Clarksville, Tennessee, native has started in each of his last 26 games for Tennessee and was selected as a 2016 team captain by head coach Butch Jones at the DISH Orange & White Game in April.
Rounding out Tennessee’s first team selections are the Vols’ outstanding return duo in Berry and Sutton. Berry was the country’s top kickoff returner in 2015, pacing the FBS with a 38.3 yards-per-return average to go along with three return touchdowns. For his efforts, Berry was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year and earned first team All-America honors from multiple publications. Similarly, Sutton led the country in punt returns at 18.7 yards per return and brought two punts back for scores.
Hurd was named to the fourth team one year after the running back helped the UT offense rack up 2,908 yards rushing during the 2015 season. Hurd, the Outback Bowl MVP, finished the season with 1,288 yards rushing to become Tennessee’s first-ever true sophomore to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a single season. He was fourth in the SEC in rushing last season and will enter his junior season with 2,291 yards to his name — just 891 yards behind Travis Henry for Tennessee’s all-time career rushing mark.
Tennessee and Team 120 — previously tabbed with a No. 7 preseason ranking by Athlon Sports — opens the 2016 season on Thursday, Sept. 1 against Appalachian State.