No one-trick Tony

No one-trick Tony

At 6-feet-2 and 230 pounds, Penn State's rugged tailback is bigger than six of the 11 Tennessee defenders - including two linebackers - who will be trying to tackle him in Monday's Outback Bowl Game.

Tony Hunt has more going for him than size, however. Just ask the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Hunt shredded them for 135 yards on 24 carries back on Sept. 23.

His best game came against Temple on Nov. 11. He averaged better than 10 yards per carry, rushing 16 times for a career-best 167 yards and two touchdowns.

He finished the regular season with 1,228 yards, a 5.0 yards-per-carry average and 11 touchdowns en route to second-team All-Big Ten recognition.

Hunt is no one-trick Tony, however. An outstanding receiver out of the backfield, he holds school records for career receptions by a running back (87) and career receiving yards by a running back (792). His senior stats show 26 grabs for 252 yards, a 9.7 yards-per-catch average.

His finest day as a receiver came against a vaunted Michigan defense on Oct. 14, when he caught five balls for 85 yards, including gains of 31 and 43 yards on screen passes. The latter produced a touchdown.

Clearly, stopping Hunt will be Job One for Tennessee Monday in Tampa. That's the conclusion Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis reached after watching Penn State game films.

"The quarterback (Anthony Morelli) has played better, and they've got some really good, talented receivers," Chavis said. "But the first thing that jumps out at you is the running back. He's big, physical and hard to tackle."

In fact, Hunt is bigger and more physical than any back the Vols have faced all season. The only back of comparable size was Florida's DeShawn Wynn.

"Hunt is a little taller; he's about 6-1 and DeShawn's 5-10 maybe," Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers said. "They're similar body types but their running styles are different."

Basically, Hunt is a combination slasher/bruiser who is equally adept at eluding and flattening would-be tacklers.

"He's a big, strong back and he makes good cuts," Ayers said. "He's not the fastest of running backs but he can beat you with his speed if he has to. We've got to do a good job of wrapping him up and gang-tackling him."

Fellow defensive end Xavier Mitchell touched on the same theme.

"We want to gang-tackle anyway (whether a back is big or small). But that's going to be a big key to bringing him down. He's a big back, and if you don't tackle well, he'll give you trouble all day."

Except for Arkansas superstar Darren McFadden, Hunt might be the best back the Vols will face all season.

"He's a great runner," Mitchell conceded. "He and DeShawn Wynn are the biggest backs we've faced. And Hunt's got over 1200 yards, so obviously he's given other teams a tough time trying to tackle him."

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