Tennessee's Barnett, Malone plan to enter NFL draft

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett and wide receiver Josh Malone are planning to forgo their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft.

Malone announced Tuesday via Instagram that he is entering the draft. Barnett sent out a tweet Tuesday stating, ''It has been 3 great years. I'm very thankful for getting the opportunity to play at Tennessee! Thank you all for the many memories.''

Although Barnett never explicitly stated in the tweet that he was turning pro, Tennessee athletic department spokesman Ryan Robinson confirmed that Barnett is indeed entering the draft.

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Barnett recorded 33 career sacks at Tennessee to overtake Reggie White as the school's all-time sack leader . Barnett posted his record-breaking sack Friday late in Tennessee's 38-24 Music City Bowl victory over No. 24 Nebraska.

He had 13 sacks to lead the Southeastern Conference this season and was a first-team selection on The Associated Press' All-America team . Barnett is the first SEC player ever to post double-digit sacks in three separate seasons. Barnett, who is listed as 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds, has been projected as a likely first-round selection in various mock drafts.

Malone said in his announcement that he wanted to ''thank the fans for the continuous support throughout all my years at UT.'' He also offered thanks to his teammates and to Tennessee's coaching staff. He credited wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni for helping him ''mature as a young man and develop my game to where it is now.''

After scoring a total of three touchdowns in his first two seasons at Tennessee, Malone had a breakthrough year in 2016. The 6-3 junior caught 50 passes for 972 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the Volunteers (9-4) in all three categories.

Malone and Barnett join running back Alvin Kamara as Tennessee juniors entering the draft, a notable development for a program that hasn't had a player selected in either of the last two drafts.

The VaynerSports agency tweeted Friday after the Music City Bowl that it had signed Kamara, a post that Kamara retweeted. Kamara also sent out a separate tweet saying that ''It's been a great 2 years on Rocky Top! I love you all and appreciate the many memories. Go Vols!!''


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