Hunter, Thomas named to Steele All-American team

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- The postseason honors keep rolling in for the Tennessee football team, this time Justin Hunter and Dallas Thomas have earned their second All-America honor after being named Phil Steele Fourth Team All-Americans.

Earlier this week, Hunter picked up to the Pro Football Weekly All-American Team while Thomas was honored with All-American honors.

The duo also highlighted seven Phil Steele All-Conference honorees. Tennessee’ s five offensive honorees ranked second most, edged by Alabama’s six.

Hunter, alongside tight end Mychal Rivera and Cordarrelle Patterson were named to Steele’s first team all-conference. Patterson, Thomas and A.J. Johnson earned second team all-conference honors and Antonio Richardson found a spot on the third team.

Hunter, led the Vols and finished third in the SEC with 73 catches for 1,083 yards. His total for catches ranked second-most in a season in Tennessee history and his yardage total was third all-time in a season. Hunter scored nine receiving touchdowns, including a school-record tying three TDs in two different games this season. He scored three touchdowns against both Georgia State and Troy. Hunter had four 100-yard receiving games as a junior including a career-high 181 vs. Troy. He became the eighth Vol with a 1,000-yard receiving season.

Thomas, also a third-team All-American by, alongside Richardson on the left side of the offensive line helped the Vols to one of the nation's top offensive lines in 2012. The Vols' offensive line allowed just eight sacks, the fewest in the SEC and fourth-fewest per game (0.67) in the NCAA. Tennessee racked up 475.9 yards of offense per game to rank 20th in the nation and 315.6 yards of passing offense to list 15th overall. Tennessee had five games with 500-plus yards of total offense, the most by UT since 1997. That included a school-record 718 yards of total offense against Troy.

Rivera, who was UT's first coaches' All-SEC first-team tight end since Jason Witten in 2002, set the record for receiving yards in a single-season by a Tennessee tight end with 562 yards, surpassing the Dallas Cowboys' Witten, who has 493 in 2002 with the Vols. Rivera closed his senior season with catches in 18 consecutive games. He posted career-highs with 10 catches for 129 yards against Missouri. Rivera had five receiving touchdowns as part of his career-best 36 catches.

Patterson earned Phil Steele first team honors as a kick returner and turned in second team honors as a wide receiver. Patterson had a record-setting year as he established the SEC's new single-season mark for average per return for combined kickoff and punt returns at 27.6. His kickoff return average of 28.0, ranks second all-time in the SEC for a single-season. Patterson also established a new Tennessee record for all-purpose yards in a season with 1,858. His 154.8 all-purpose yards per game led the SEC and ranked in the top 20 in the nation.

Patterson became the first player in the NCAA to record a touchdown four different ways in the same season since 2008 and the first-ever to accomplish the feat at Tennessee. He led the Vols with 10 total touchdowns (five receiving, three rushing and one each by kickoff and punt return). Patterson had 42 catches for 778 yards to go along with 25 carries for 308 yards. He returned 24 kickoffs for 671 yards and four punts for 101 yards. He posted the fourth-greatest receiving day in UT history with nine catches for 219 yards against Troy. Against the Trojans, he racked up 275 all-purpose yards, the second-most for any Vol in a single game, ever. He scored the Vols' first punt return for a touchdown since 2003 with an 81-yard return at Vanderbilt.

Johnson, who was also named to the SEC coaches second team, finished fourth in the NCAA in tackles and tackles per game with 138 for 11.5 per game. As a sophomore, Johnson led the SEC in tackles in 12 starts in 2012. He also had team-high 8.5 TFLs for 25 yards along with his first-career sack and eight quarterback hurries. He posted most tackles by a Vol since Jerod Mayo made 140 in 2007. His 75 assisted tackles are the third-most in a season at UT. With 21 tackles at Mississippi State, Johnson had most stops by a Vol in 24 years, since Keith DeLong had 23 vs. Alabama in 1988. He averaged 12.9 tackles over the last 10 games of the season with at least 11 tackles in each game. Those were his 10 games with double-figure tackles in 2012. Johnson also rushed 12 times for 21 yards with team-high six touchdowns out of `The Beast' a Wildcat QB formation.

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