The Tennessee Vols have one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in Hendon Hooker.

Hooker, who started his collegiate career at Virginia Tech, is a darkhorse candidate to win the Heisman Trophy this season. And he can set a few records at Tennessee this year as well (such as consecutive games with a touchdown pass).

Not bad for a player who was a backup to start his career with the Vols.

On Tuesday, Tennessee quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle met with reporters and he explained — in a roundabout way — why Hooker didn’t begin the 2021 season as the Vols’ starter.

Halzle noted that Hooker was playing too seriously. He was too uptight. The Greensboro, NC native wasn’t having enough fun.

“When we first got here, I watched every clip that every quarterback that was on campus had from game film,” said Halzle on Tuesday. “Hendon was clearly very talented. Was excited for the opportunity to work with him. With what everybody said about him, he was a great guy. Starting to work with him when we first got here — February, March, and then into spring ball — Hendon was a guy that was way too far in the business model, meaning, like, nothing was fun.”

“Everything was serious. Everything was (work), and that wasn’t his best way to play. Some guys it is. It is not for him. So we had to do a long time of working on having him just really enjoy the game (every) day. Working hard — working hard doesn’t mean serious all the time, though. He’s fun, he’s having it and enjoying his time out on the field, and that is what’s allowed his talent to now take over again. He’s not tightening himself up with his own mind.”

It took Hooker some time to adjust when he arrived at Tennessee. Fortunately for Hooker, he has coaches in Knoxville that know how to get the best out of him.

That should be the most encouraging takeaway for Vols fans from Halzle’s comments. This coaching staff knows that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to quarterbacks. Halzle took the time to figure out how Hooker plays his best football. And that’s a big reason why Hooker could be on the stage in New York at the Heisman Trophy presentation later this year.

Featured image via Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports