Even though the Vols lost many talented starters from last season, several of this year’s players are being named to award watch lists before the start of the season. And kick return specialist Evan Berry is the latest Vol to be named to an award watch list.
The senior kick return specialist/safety has been named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list. According to the award’s website, the purpose of the Paul Hornung Award is to “recognize and reward versatile, high-level performers in major college football.” And Evan Berry definitely fits that mold.
Though Berry hasn’t been used hardly at all on offense in his Tennessee career thus far and his appearances on defense have been sparse, he’s made a name for himself as a kick returner, earning All-American honors in 2015 and All-SEC honors the last two seasons. Berry’s career mark of 1,677 kick return yards trails only Willie Gault by 177 yards for the program record. He’s also currently tied with Gault for the most career kick return touchdowns in a career with four.
In his career, Evan Berry has averaged 34.2 yards per kick return on 49 returns. Berry also has a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, and he’s recorded 35 total tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass defended as a Vol.
Michigan’s Jabril Peppers won the award last season for proving to be the most versatile athlete in college football. Peppers was credited with playing linebacker, running back, quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, and return specialist last season. A return specialist has won the award five of the seven years the award has been given.
In addition to starting or playing significant downs on either offense or defense, candidates for the award are judged on the following:
- Playing multiple positions on offense and/or multiple positions on defense
- Playing a significant role on special teams
- Performing as a two-way player who starts either on offense or defense and is used on the other side of the ball in some capacity
- Making a significant impact during big games and elevating the team’s performance through leadership displayed by excelling in multiple roles
By those standards, Evan Berry certainly qualifies. Berry is a return specialist and plays safety for Tennessee, and there’s always the chance he could be utilized on offense as well.