Hendon Hooker’s season is over, but the legacy he left at Tennessee is safe

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker was enjoying it Heisman-caliber season Until the moment his left knee fumbled in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss South Carolinaresulting in a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

As a 24-year-old, Hooker was batting first round NFL Draft fanfare, because behind center, the Vols offense has been a scoring machine, averaging over 46 points and 540 yards of offense per game.

In age and productivity, Hooker’s performance this season is perhaps best compared to his predecessor Pittsburgh Panther quarterback Kenny Beckett Done in 2021. Pickett turned the Heisman’s season as a finalist into a first-round draft pick in the 2022 draft (No. 20 overall, Steelers). At the age of 24, he was the only player to be selected at such a high level.

Related: Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker out for the season

Like Beckett – and the like Toa Tagovailoa in 2020 (No. 5 overall, dolphins) – It is possible for Hooker to be heavily recruited after being injured at the end of the season. But he could potentially be hurt by missing out on the opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl and work with NFL teams that want to see his ability in environments controlled by professional coaches.

This is what his talent means to the sport. But Hooker’s legacy in Tennessee means more than that.

In his sophomore season at Tennessee, he threw for 3,135 yards and 27 TDs with only two INTs. He did this despite sitting out the second half and fourth quarter because the offense had put up numbers that, at lower levels, would have resulted in continuous hour claims.

against MissouriHooker led an offense that produced over 700 yards and 66 points.

Tennessee has scored 34 or more points in every game this season except for one, the A.J 27-13 A loss for the defending national champion Georgia Bulldog. The Vols beat five AP opponents along the way.

But no win is more important to the two volume councilors and their faithful than 52-49 Excitement they won against Nick Saban and Alabama Crimson Tide. The victory broke a 16-year losing streak to the Tides and catapulted them to their first No. 1 ranking in the college football The playoff era. Hooker also jumped to the front of the Heisman race.

There is still a chance Hooker will receive enough Heisman votes to warrant his attendance at the ceremony in New York. But it looks like the Vols’ dream season is over without a CFP invite, thanks 63-38 loss to South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

While Hooker passed for 247 yards with three TDs, the Vols trailed the Gamecocks by 18 when Hooker injured his knee. And it would be almost impossible for a CFP selection committee to overlook.

There is a way, though it’s slim, thanks in part to the movie Vols 40-13 victory over the SEC West champion LSU In Baton Rouge earlier this season.

if LSU – now 6th in the AP Poll – lose to bad Texas A&M team f if USC loses Notre DameAnd the if South Carolina pulls off a second straight fumble and collapses ClemsonAnd the if TCU loses Iowa or in Big 12 starring f if The Big ten East Champion – Ohio State or Michigan — lose the Big Ten championship, the Vols may find themselves in the midst of an “eye test” argument for one last spot in the CFP. second – if is the operative word here.

He should be the UT backup quarterback Joe Melton To play his best football in place of Hooker against A.J Vanderbilt Team that has defeated back-to-back SEC opponents. The Vols need to make a lasting impression in the final game of the regular season.

Tennessee still being positioned to challenge for the CFP spot — if and all — is a testament to what the Vols have accomplished this season, and none of that could have been done without Hooker.

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RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and host of the podcast “The number one college football show.Follow him on Twitter at @employee And the Subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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