Sugar Bowl Preview: #7 Baylor Vs. #8 Ole Miss
Tennessee receiver Cedric Tillman is returning to Knoxville for his senior season, the 6-foot-3 receiver announced Thursday.
One More Ride!! GBO🍊 pic.twitter.com/CPEEwIG80B
— Cedric Tillman (@Ctillman04) December 23, 2021
Tillman’s decision comes just under two weeks after quarterback Hendon Hooker announced his intentions to return to Knoxville for a Super Senior season.
The pair deciding to return is a massive boost for Josh Heupel and his staff heading into their second season in Knoxville.
Hooker rejuvenated a Tennessee offense that had floundered since Josh Dobbs graduated but Tillman’s growth was the surprise of the season.
The redshirt-junior totaled 124 yards and two touchdowns in his first three season in the orange-and-white. This season, Tillman was one of the conference’s best receivers, totaling 57 catches for 931 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Las Vegas native needs 69 yards in the Music City Bowl against Purdue to become the first Tennessee receiver to total 1,000 yards in a season since Cordarrelle Patterson met the mark in 2012. Tillman hasn’t shied away from the goal either.
“Yes I did,” Tillman said if he though he could be this productive. “Coach Burns called me up to his office and said there’s no reason you can’t have a 1,000 yards the season so that definitely was a goal of mine and I’m not going to sugar coat it, I’m definitely trying to get it.”
The breakout receiver played his best when the opponents were the greatest, totaling 200 yards against Georgia and 152 yards against Alabama.
Tillman’s return is massive for Tennessee’s offense both because of his abilities, but also because of the receivers the Vols lost. Tennessee’s two other starters during the 2021 season — Velus Jones Jr. and JaVonta Payton — are both out of eligibility.
While Tillman left his football future open after the Vanderbilt game, Heupel made a pitch for the star receiver to return.
“I believe his best football is still ahead of him,” Heupel said. “He’s a guy that from the moment we’ve gotten here he’s just been super consistent in who he is and how he approaches the day, how he works in the weight room. He has to spend as much time as anybody watching extra film on what we’ve done offensively, and what you have to do. Because of his work habits, he constantly gets better. First five days of spring ball to the second five days, you can see him get better. You see his confidence grows in five of the 35 days, and he took another huge jump in who he was all summer long and how he prepared.
During training camp, you can see him take steps, and guys have seen that in the way he’s played throughout the course of the season. Man, he’s got a chance to be an extremely dominant football player next year. Guy’s got chance to do some really special things and help this program win.”
With the early signing period starting Wednesday, Heupel and his staff have already landed its two biggest commits for the 2022 football team. Hooker and Tillman will be back in Knoxville donning the orange-and-white for one more season.