We’re starting to hear Tennessee Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker’s name in the same sentence as “Heisman Trophy contender” more often as the offseason progresses.

Hooker, who is set to return to Tennessee in 2022 for his final season of eligibility, was a revelation for the Volunteers last season.

The Virginia Tech transfer didn’t earn the starting job during spring practice/fall camp, but it didn’t take long for him to take the job from Joe Milton last season.

Hooker came in for an injured Milton in the second game of the season — a loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers — and he never looked back.

The Greensboro, NC native only started 11 games for the Volunteers, but he still managed to finish the year with the 10th highest passing yard total in a season in program history (2,945 yards). The only UT quarterbacks that have had a season more passing yards than Hooker are Josh Dobbs, Peyton Manning, Erik Ainge, Casey Clausen, and Tyler Bray.

Hooker’s emergence last season, combined with Vols head coach Josh Heupel’s high scoring offense, is why the UT quarterback is being mentioned in Heisman conversations.

So, how realistic is this for Hooker?

Well, when you first look at the numbers, you might not think it’s realistic at all.

Alabama’s Bryce Young won the Heisman last year after passing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns.

Those numbers seem to dwarf Hooker’s 2,945 passing yards and 31 touchdowns.

But if we take a deeper look at the numbers, we’ll see that Hooker isn’t that far from Young’s level of production.

Hooker only started 11 games while Young started 15 games. So let’s start there.

If you extrapolate Hooker’s numbers over a 15 game season, they look a lot better.

Over 15 games, Hooker would’ve passed for around 3,752 yards and 40 touchdowns.

That’s still over 1,000 yards less than Young.

But we can’t forget about rushing yards and touchdowns. Young rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns last season. Hooker, on the other hand, rushed for 620 yards and five touchdowns. Over a 15 game season, that would extrapolate to 779 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Hooker would then be responsible for 4,531 yards and 47 touchdowns, compared to Young’s 4,953 total yards and 50 touchdowns.

The advantage still goes to Young. But the thought here is that Hooker will improve in his second season in Heupel’s offense. Plus, let’s not forget that Hooker would be putting up similar numbers as Young but with much less talent around him.

Ultimately, it’s a longshot that Hooker will win the Heisman — mostly because it would require Tennessee reaching the SEC Championship game or the College Football Playoff. And that’s just now feasible in 2022.

But it’s still worth recognizing that Hendon Hooker absolutely has Heisman-level talent.

Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports