NASHVILLEQuarterback Hendon Hooker was a revelation last season fo the University of Tennessee. The Vols showed potential in Year 1 under coach Josh Heupel.

Clear offensive prowess helped maximize the transfer beyond any reasonable expectation.

Hooker was not the only player on Tennessee’s roster to benefit from the regime change. In fact, he was not even Heupel’s first choice at quarterback. Fellow transfer Joe Milton, recruited to Knoxville from Michigan by Heupel and his staff, claimed the starting job to begin the Vols’ season. Execution issues in Tennessee’s first two games and a first-half leg injury against Pitt saw Milton bounced from the line-up.

Hooker assumed the role and led the Vols to a third place finish in the SEC East.

Hooker has his fair share of flaws

That would matter more if we were doing an NFL prospect evaluation.

Hooker may well end up drafted in 2023 with personal improvement and another strong season, but there will be plenty of time for all that. Growth within the scope of Heupel’s offense is where attention should be focused on at present. The senior appears to have the tools to do so.

“(Hooker) was clearly a half-field, one-read guy,” said NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell. “When that was not there or clear to him, he broke down and left the pocket a high percentage of the time without really letting anything else happen. Even when he was well protected.”

It is common in college offenses to cut the field in half for a quarterback not properly coached or capable of going through full reads. That may well be the case in Tennessee’s offense, but lack of awareness in the pocket is an issue that transcends scheme. You can drill and practice what a player is supposed to do when the his protection collapses, but an individual’s instincts in that situation are more difficult to predict or coach.

Hooker will be critical to any success the Vols have in 2022. His ability to hone his skills will determine just how far in the SEC East they can go.

Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.