The health status of Vols’ quarterback Hendon Hooker has been day-to-day since the beginning of the week. Last Saturday, Hooker sustained an injury late in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss and could not return for Tennessee’s final drive. However, on Friday, a report from On3 Sports indicates that Hooker’s health is trending upwards late in the week.
“It appears that Tennessee won’t have to rely on a backup quarterback against No. 4 Alabama,” On3 Sports’ Matt Zenitz wrote. “Hendon Hooker is expected to be OK to start against the Crimson Tide, sources told On3.”
Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel’s latest update came during his press conference on Tennessee’s campus Thursday.
“Hendon [Hooker] has gotten some work throughout the course of the week,” Heupel said on Thursday. “The other guys (Bailey, Milton) have gotten some work. Medically, we will make a determination where all those guys are at here when we get through tomorrow’s practice. At the end of the day, our medical staff is a decision-maker as far as if guys are ready to play or are they not.”
Hooker has been a dynamic force in the offense since taking over as the starter in Week 3. Additionally, in every week except for one, Hooker has improved upon his passing total from the week before. The only time he didn’t was when he tied his previous week.
“I think his understanding of what we’re doing,” Heupel said on Monday about why Hooker has been able to improve each week. “His preparation’s been really good, so he’s had the ability to grow each and every week. Playing with more confidence as he’s gone through that. Apart of that, though, is the growth of the other guys around him, too, that continue to get better. The other night there were some things that we did really well. When I say we need to play smarter for four quarters, each guy can’t take his turn of being off one time. That just kills you in a game that’s limited opportunities.”
With Hooker at the helm, Tennessee’s offense sits at 39.3 points per game, which is third-most in the SEC. Additionally, Tennessee has 275 total points on the year, which is only one spot behind top-ranked Alabama (315), their opponent on Saturday.
“So, for Hendon, he’s going to continue to grow,” Heupel went on to say. “Believe that he prepares in a great way. His teammates care about him, his teammates believe in him, and that’s been a big part of why he’s been able to grow too.”
Tennessee (4-3, 2-2 SEC) will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC) this Saturday night. ESPN will have the broadcast at 7:00 p.m. ET.