How Josh Heupel Reacted To Hendon Hooker Returning For Super Senior Season

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    Tennessee star Hendon Hooker is returning for his super senior season, the quarterback announced Sunday afternoon.

    Hooker met with the media Tuesday and discussed what all went into his decision, who he talked to before and what Josh Heupel had to say when he heard the news.

    According to the quarterback, Heupel reacted in his usual calm nature, but with excitement and confidence.

    “It was very casual,” Hooker said of informing Heupel of his decision. “We were just kind of walking off the field and he was like ‘what you gonna do?’. I said ‘I’m going to come back next year’ and he was like ‘oh, okay. Yeah, I’m excited. Let’s go to Atlanta,’ and I was like ‘yes sir, let’s make it happen.'”

    Heupel’s expression of confidence is something he’s shown quietly throughout his first season but rarely amplifies due to his calm demeanor. The head coach’s confidence showed up this season through his players. Velus Jones Jr. said Tuesday that he was most proud of his team for never backing down from adversity and always believing they can win.

    That’s a reflection of a head coach who coached that way all season. That includes playing a banged up Hooker against Alabama and going for it on fourth down in the second half against Georgia— not playing for field goals to make the game close but playing to win with touchdowns.

    Of course, it’s an incredibly lofty goal Heupel is setting for his team and quarterback.

    With consistency, Georgia has separated itself as the second best program in the SEC. The Bulldogs have won the SEC East four of the last five years — though they only have one SEC title in that span — and the Vols play in Athens next November.

    However, there is a window opening up for Tennessee. The Vols beat everyone in the SEC East besides Florida and Georgia this season but the Gators have been in free fall since October. Bill Napier’s first team in Gainesville should still have plenty of talent but the gap between the two programs has decreased catastrophically in the last year.

    Tennessee has a chance for two marquee wins against first year coaches next season when they host Florida in September and travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU in October.

    If Heupel and the Vols want to return to Atlanta for the first time since 2007, they need to win both of those games.

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.