Nov 19, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) is assisted off the field after suffering an apparent injury against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker (ACL) out for season

Tennessee announced Sunday evening that quarterback Hendon Hooker tore the ACL in his left knee in Saturday’s loss to South Carolina and was done for the season.

Hooker was a Heisman Trophy hopeful after guiding the Volunteers to major wins in the SEC and the No. 1 spot in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.

The injury marks the end of Hooker’s career, as the former Virginia Tech quarterback was in his final year of collegiate eligibility.

“Hendon’s incredible journey has been defined by faith, perseverance and strength,” Tennessee said in a statement. “Obstacles have never stood in the way on his path to greatness. Forever a Tennessee legend and the ultimate teammate, we know Hendon will come back stronger than ever as he embarks on a promising NFL future.”

In 11 games this season, Hooker has completed 69.6 percent of his passes for a career-high 3,135 yards, 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He guided Tennessee to an 8-0 start with wins over LSU and Alabama.

But the Volunteers have lost two of their past three games – 27-13 to No. 1 Georgia and 63-38 on the road Saturday at South Carolina.

Early in the fourth quarter of the Gamecocks blowout, Hooker suffered a non-contact injury to his left leg on a rush attempt. He fumbled on the play and it was recovered by South Carolina’s Jordan Burch.

Joe Milton III is the next man up at quarterback for Tennessee, which was No. 5 in the country last week and is sure to fall in the new CFP rankings Tuesday night.

In four seasons at Virginia Tech (2019-20) and Tennessee (2021-22), Hooker amassed 8,974 passing yards, 80 touchdowns and just 12 picks. He had 58 scoring passes and just five interceptions in his two seasons with the Volunteers.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) during the first half against the Tennessee Martin Skyhawks at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Tennessee pits up-tempo style vs. No. 19 Kentucky

No. 19 Kentucky will face a big challenge on Saturday night — finding a way to slow the high-flying offense of No. 3 Tennessee in a key Southeastern Conference matchup in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Volunteers (7-0, 3-0) lead FBS with per-game averages of 50.1 points and 571.7 yards. Quarterback Hendon Hooker is playing at a Heisman Trophy level with 2,408 total yards, 18 touchdown passes and just one interception.

Receiver Jalin Hyatt has 40 catches for 769 yards and 12 touchdowns. The running game chips in nearly 203 yards per game, and the team converts third downs at a 51.5 percent clip.

So how can Kentucky keep Tennessee’s offense in check?

“When you’re playing the No. 1 offense in the country, you’d better be locked in,” Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said. “You better play at a high clip or you’ll get embarrassed.”

Earlier this month, Kentucky (5-2, 2-2) got a taste of what it will be up against with Tennessee. The Wildcats started October with a trip to Ole Miss to face coach Lane Kiffin’s fast-tempo, high-scoring attack. While the Wildcats lost, they kept the Rebels out of the end zone for the last three quarters of a 22-19 setback.

Kentucky also is coming off a bye week, meaning it is well-rested and should be in better health. The Wildcats dealt with a spate of key injuries in their last two games before the open date.

“We needed some time to heal,” Stoops said. “The players needed some time to heal up a little bit and get our legs up underneath us to play a team as fast as Tennessee is in all areas.”

The Wildcats’ pro-style attack, which looks to establish the running game first, could help their defense. Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez rushed for 197 yards on 31 carries Oct. 15 in a 27-17 home win over Mississippi State, and if he can approach those numbers again, it would enhance the opportunity for an upset.

The Volunteers will have to match Kentucky’s physicality up front in order to keep Rodriguez in check and give themselves plenty of opportunity to score.

“Sometimes, they have three or four tight ends on the field, so they’re very multiple in their formations and they’re really going to challenge your run fits,” said Tennessee linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary. “Gap integrity is going to be very, very big this week.”

The Volunteers didn’t have a bye last week, but they had the next best thing — a home game with an FCS opponent. Tennessee clobbered UT Martin 65-24 and played reserves for most of the second half.

Tennessee owns an 82-26-9 advantage in the all-time series against the Wildcats, including a 45-42 win last year at Kentucky when Hooker threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Bru McCoy (15) and Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Ramel Keyton (80) celebrate a touchdown against the Tennessee Martin Skyhawks during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Tennessee continues offensive fireworks in blowing out UT Martin

Hendon Hooker passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns in less than two quarters of action and No. 3 Tennessee steamrolled UT Martin 65-24 on Saturday in nonconference play at Knoxville, Tenn.

Tight end Princeton Fant rushed for two touchdowns and threw a scoring pass for the Volunteers (7-0). Jalin Hyatt caught seven passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, Squirrel White had five receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown and Ramel Keyton caught five passes for 77 yards and two scores as Tennessee soared past the Skyhawks, who are ranked 14th in the FCS ranks.

Hyatt has caught 11 passes for 381 yards and seven touchdowns over the past two games. He set a school record and tied the Southeastern Conference mark with five scoring receptions in last week’s 52-49 win over Alabama.

Tennessee rolled up a season-high 696 yards of total offense. The Volunteers led the nation with an average of 551 entering the contest.

Dresser Winn passed for 301 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Skyhawks (4-3), who dropped to 0-12 against SEC teams and 1-30 against FBS programs. George Qualls Jr. had two touchdown receptions and Colton Dowell caught seven passes for 112 yards.

This was the second meeting between schools located 331 miles apart. Tennessee rolled to a 50-0 win in 2012.

Jabari Small scored on a 1-yard run on the Volunteers’ first drive to get things started, but the Skyhawks answered when Zoe Roberts scored on a 4-yard jet sweep with 9:05 left in the period.

Tennessee went ahead for good on Fant’s 1-yard run with 5:59 left. The Volunteers increased the lead to 21-7 on the final play of the quarter when Hooker connected with Keyton on an 8-yard scoring pass.

Chase McGrath kicked a 40-yard field goal with 10:54 left in the second to start a streak in which Tennessee scored 10 points in 41 seconds.

UT Martin turned it over on its next offensive play as Trevon Flowers forced Sam Franklin to fumble and Aaron Beasley recovered at the Skyhawks’ 31-yard line. Two plays later, Hooker teamed with Hyatt on a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-7 and stretch Tennessee’s streak of scoring at least 30 points to 10 consecutive games.

The Volunteers boosted their lead to 31 on Hooker’s 17-yard pass to Keyton with 7:09 left in the half, and Fant tacked on an 11-yard run to make it 45-7 with 4:15 remaining.

Tennessee dipped into the trick play book on its next possession as Fant received a backward pass from backup quarterback Joe Milton III and connected with a wide-open Hyatt. The ball was initially juggled by Hyatt around the 25 before he corralled it and completed a 68-yard scoring play with 2:10 left.

Dylan Sampson scored on a 1-yard run early in the third quarter to make it 58-7 before the Volunteers lowered gears while finishing off the rout.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) scrambles with the ball during an NCAA college football game against Florida on Saturday, September 24, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn.


No. 3 Alabama faces toughest test yet at No. 6 Tennessee

After surviving a near-upset last week at home and slipping from No. 1 to No. 3 in the rankings, Alabama faces its toughest challenge to date Saturday in an SEC showdown against No. 6 Tennessee in Knoxville.

It’s the second time this season the Crimson Tide have fallen out of the top spot, and coach Nick Saban expects his team to respond similarly to its previous dip. After a one-point win at Texas on Sept. 10, Alabama fell from No. 1 to No. 2 and promptly scored 167 points in its next three games, beating Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt and Arkansas by an average of 44 points.

But none of those teams have shown the mettle that the Volunteers have displayed this season. Josh Heupel’s club has become one of college football’s surprising success stories of 2022.

Alabama (6-0, 3-0) has won 15 in a row against Tennessee (5-0, 2-0), with the Vols’ last win coming in Knoxville in 2006 — the year before Saban became the Tide’s coach.

The Vols, who went 7-6 with a loss to Purdue in the Music City Bowl last year, are 5-0 for the first time since 2016 with wins over three ranked opponents, including a dominant 40-13 rout at LSU last Saturday.

“We really just take it as a grain of salt, not getting too high, not getting too low, just staying even-keeled and making sure we’re doing our job every day,” Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker said this week.

Hooker, a redshirt senior transfer from Virginia Tech, is one of the primary reasons for the early success.

He leads the SEC with a 179.49 passer rating, completing 98 of 140 passes for 1,432 yards with 10 touchdowns — all with no interceptions. Hooker has also 231 yards rushing with three touchdowns.

A major question surrounding QBs in this game is the status of Alabama starter Bryce Young, who missed last week’s narrow 24-20 win over Texas A&M after leaving the Crimson Tide’s previous game against Arkansas with a right shoulder injury.

Saban was hopeful that Young would be available to play against Tennessee.

“Hopefully we’re going to try to get him ready to play this week,” Saban said Monday. “But this is something nobody can predict how quickly he’ll get an opportunity to do what he needs to do.”

Freshman Jalen Milroe started last week and threw three touchdown passes, but also lost two fumbles and threw an interception.

Milroe has completed 28 of 46 passes for 262 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, and has been a threat running the ball, gaining 244 yards and a touchdown on 29 attempts.

“I just think Jalen played with a lot of anxiety,” Saban said. “I don’t think he allowed himself to let his training guide him and trust and believe in it so he could have success in executing plays. You can’t turn the ball over and not execute plays the way they’re designed relative to the read of what you should and shouldn’t do.”

Alabama is averaging 6.99 yards a carry, led by Jahmyr Gibbs with 532 yards (third best in the SEC). Tennessee ranks second in the conference in rushing defense, allowing 2.79 yards per carry and 89.2 per game.

“In the run game, you are best to not let (Gibbs) get started,” Heupel said. “If he does, he has the ability to take it the distance. He has good vision and pace behind the line of scrimmage. When he sees a hole, he is able to hit it. He does a really good job of making people miss, too.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) reacts after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers in overtime at Acrisure Stadium.  Tennessee won 34-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman (ankle) out vs. LSU

Tennessee star wide receiver Cedric Tillman won’t play Saturday against LSU in a key Southeastern Conference matchup because he is still recovering from a high ankle sprain, according to ESPN.

The outlet said Tillman did not make the trip to Baton Rouge, La., for the afternoon showdown between the eighth-ranked Volunteers (4-0, 1-0) and the No. 25 Tigers (4-1, 2-0).

Tillman underwent ankle surgery on Sept. 20 and has had limited physical activity with the team since then, ESPN reported, adding that the Vols are increasing his activity with the hope of him playing next Saturday against top-ranked Alabama.

Tillman missed Tennessee’s 38-33 win over then-No. 20 Florida on Sept. 24 because of his injury.

A preseason All-SEC receiver, Tillman has caught 17 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown in three appearances this season. He posted 64 receptions for 1,081 yards and 12 TDs a year ago and earned All-SEC second-team honors.

ESPN also reported Saturday that LSU offensive tackle Will Campbell will miss Saturday’s game after being hospitalized for dehydration on Friday evening.

Campbell, a true freshman, has started all five games for the Tigers this season.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) loses a pass in the end zone during a game between Tennessee and Akron at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

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Report: Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman has ankle surgery

Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman underwent a procedure known as tightrope surgery on his left ankle last week, ESPN reported Thursday.

Tillman missed the Volunteers’ win over Florida last week with a high ankle sprain.

No. 8 Tennessee (4-0) is off this week before a trip to LSU on Oct. 8. It’s unknown how long Tillman might sit out.

“Obviously, we’re a long way away from game time,” Heupel said Wednesday of Tillman’s availability for the LSU game. “We’re hopeful that he will continue to make progress and be available when we go down there.”

Tillman, a preseason All-SEC receiver, has caught 17 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown in three appearances this season. He posted 64 receptions for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago and earned All-SEC second-team honors.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel during the first half against the Ball State Cardinals at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 Tennessee preps for ‘tough and physical’ No. 17 Pitt

No. 24 Tennessee had little problem dispatching overmatched Ball State 59-10 in the season opener last week.

The Volunteers’ second matchup — Saturday at No. 17 Pitt — will be much more challenging.

“This is a big game for us, obviously,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “The first road test for us against a really good football team. They are tough and physical on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and they do a really nice job. It will be a big test for us.”

High expectations exist for the Volunteers (1-0) this season, and Saturday’s game will be a big measuring stick.

“Last week has nothing to do with this coming week,” Heupel cautioned. “A year ago has nothing to do with what’s going to happen this week. To perform the right way, you have to prepare the right way. That’s in the film room and making sure we’re getting an edge on that side of it, preparing for it, practicing in a great way and then be ready to go and compete.”

Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker completed 18 of 25 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns and added two rushing scores last week.

Ten different players caught at least one pass.

“He’s smart, he’s competitive and he’s consistent in his work habits,” Heupel said of Hooker. “I expect that to continue to grow.”

Linebacker Juwan Mitchell was inactive against Ball State, and it’s unclear if he’ll play against the Panthers. Mitchell missed most of last season with a shoulder injury.

Following an exhilarating 38-31 victory over West Virginia last week, Pitt (1-0) will prepare to host a Southeastern Conference team for the first time in program history.

The Panthers are 3-0 all-time against the Volunteers, including last year’s 41-34 victory in Knoxville, Tenn.

“We know we’re going to get their best shot,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said of Tennessee. “They’re talented. They’re athletic. They’re an SEC football team that is going to look the part when they walk into the stadium on Saturday.”

Kedon Slovis made a sparkling debut for Pitt as he completed 16 of 24 passes for 308 yards and one touchdown. It was the highest passing yardage recorded by a Panthers quarterback in a season opener since 1998.

Still, Narduzzi said the Southern California transfer is just beginning to reach his potential.

“I thought Kedon played a really good game, really good, better than I thought when I watched it live,” Narduzzi said. “But he was — we thought he was late with the ball, but there was other issues with some of the routes, and I won’t get into the weeds with that. But there was some — he was waiting on his receivers to get where they needed to be, and they weren’t there for whatever reason that we won’t discuss.”

M.J. Devonshire’s game-winning, 56-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:58 left against the Mountaineers marked the Panthers’ third straight game with a defensive touchdown, dating to last year’s ACC Championship.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Walker Merrill (19) scores a touchdown against the Ball State Cardinals during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee bowls over Ball State

Hendon Hooker kicked off his longshot Heisman Trophy campaign by passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for two more scores in little more than a half as Tennessee rolled past Ball State 59-10 in the season opener for both teams Thursday night in Knoxville, Tenn.

Hooker completed 18 of 25 passes and extended his streak of games with at last one touchdown pass to 13, tied for second with Tony Robinson in the Tennessee record book behind Heath Shuler’s 18.

Jaylen Wright (88 yards) and Jabari Small (63) combined to rush for 151 yards and each scored as the Vols rushed for 218 yards in amassing 570 yards in offense.

The defense held the Cardinals to just 74 yards rushing.

Ball State’s John Paddock, a redshirt junior making his first start, passed for 269 yards and a touchdown, on a short pass to Tanner Koziol in the third quarter. Paddock completed 27 of 43 passes with two interceptions.

The Vols had the game wrapped up early. Tamarion McDonald’s interception on Ball State’s first play gave them the ball at the visitors’ 27-yard line, and Hooker cashed in with a scoring strike to Jalin Hyatt on his first play from scrimmage.

They kept on rolling from there. Hooker scored on two short keepers. Small scored from 7 yards out to put the Vols up 31-0, and Hooker connected with Walker Merrill from 16 yards to give the Vols a 38-0 lead at halftime.

Hooker directed an 11-play, 94-yard scoring drive, capped by Wright’s 3-yard rushing TD, to open the third quarter.

Joe Milton III, who started last year’s opener for the Vols, then took over. Milton finished 9-of-9 passing for 113 yards.

He directed a 78-yard march that ended with freshman Dylan Sampson scoring from 3 yards out for his first collegiate touchdown. Milton then hooked up with Jimmy Holiday on a 53-yard catch-and-run to cap a 93-yard drive.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Bru McCoy (4) is defended by Oregon Ducks cornerback Mykael Wright (2) during the Pac-12 Championship at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Oregon defeated USC 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former USC receiver Bru McCoy transfers to Tennessee

Former Southern California wide receiver Bru McCoy announced on social media Tuesday that he has committed to transfer to Tennessee.

McCoy, who has played just one season of college football and sat out two others, was in the transfer portal for the third time.

McCoy was a five-star recruit in the Class of 2019 out of Ranchos Palos Verde, Calif., ranked the No. 9 overall player in the class in the 247Sports composite.

He enrolled at USC in January 2019 but changed his mind and transferred to Texas. Less than six months later, he had decided to transfer back to USC.

McCoy sat out the 2019 season at USC because of an illness before compiling 21 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

He never got into a game during 2021 following an arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. Charges against McCoy eventually were dropped, but the Trojans never reinstated him.

The Volunteers went 7-6 (4-4 SEC) in 2021 and are being projected as a potential preseason top 25 team for 2022, with last year’s starting quarterback Hendon Hooker (2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns, three picks) among those returning.

–Field Level Media

Purdue wide receiver Broc Thompson (29) catches a pass as Tennessee defensive back De'Shawn Rucker (28) defends at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

Kns Tennessee Purdue

Purdue nips Tennessee in OT, wins high-scoring Music City Bowl

Aidan O’Connell threw for 534 yards and five touchdowns and Mitchell Fineran kicked a 38-yard field goal in overtime as Purdue nipped Tennessee 48-45 on Thursday in a thrilling Music City Bowl in Nashville.

In a game where the teams combined for 1,290 total yards, the Boilermakers (9-4) got the last laugh against the Volunteers (7-6) thanks to a dynamic passing attack. O’Connell found Broc Thompson seven times for 217 yards and two touchdowns, while Payne Durham collected five catches for 85 yards and two scores.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker matched O’Connell with five TD passes and threw for 378 yards without an interception. Cedric Tillman registered seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns, Velus Jones Jr. had 10 catches for 85 yards and a score, and Jabari Small ran for 180 yards and a touchdown for the Volunteers.

Tennessee got the ball first in overtime and went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. However, Jaylen Wright was stood up at the goal line and the whistle blew before he was able to reach the ball across. That gave Purdue a chance to win, and Fineran snuck his kick inside the left upright.

The teams combined for four touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

O’Connell began the wild sequence by throwing a pass to Durham, who spun away from three defenders, stayed inbounds and bolted for a 62-yard touchdown. The duo connected on the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Boilermakers a 38-31 lead.

However, the Volunteers tied it less than 1 1/2 minutes later. Small’s 60-yard run set up Hooker’s TD pass to Tillman on fourth-and-goal from the 13.

That deadlock lasted only 40 seconds, as O’Connell hit Thompson for a 70-yard go-ahead score with 2:57 to play. But Hooker and Princeton Fant quickly hooked up on a 58-yard completion to set up Hooker’s game-tying 2-yard TD strike to Jalin Hyatt with 1:35 remaining.

Each team had one more possession in regulation, but Purdue punted on its trip and Tennessee’s 56-yard field goal came up short.

The Boilermakers led 23-21 at the break before the teams jockeyed back and forth in the third quarter.

Tennessee regained the lead on Jones’ 15-yard catch-and-run, and then O’Connell and TJ Sheffield connected on a stellar 10-yard pitch-and-catch into the end zone to put Purdue back in front, 30-28. Chase McGrath’s 30-yard field goal flipped the scoreboard once again, giving the Volunteers a 31-30 edge at the end of three quarters.

–Field Level Media