Pair Of Vols Land On ESPN Top 100 Player List

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    ESPN released its top 100 college football players list ahead of the 2022 season with a pair of Tennessee players making the list.

    Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is No. 49 while receiver Cedric Tillman is No. 60 on the preseason prediction.

    Both Hooker and Tillman had breakout 2021 seasons under head coach Josh Heupel.

    Hooker turned in his best collegiate season after transferring from Virginia Tech, throwing for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and just three interceptions in 11 starts. The Greensboro, North Carolina native added 620 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

    “The Virginia Tech transfer blossomed last season under first-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel,” ESPN wrote. “Although not the starter to open the season, Hooker started the final 11 games and emerged as one of the country’s most efficient quarterbacks with 3,561 yards of total offense and just three interceptions. The 24-year-old redshirt senior returns as one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football.”

    Hooker is the 14th highest ranked quarterback on the list coming in behind SEC quarterbacks Bryce Young, K.J. Jefferson, Will Rogers, Will Levis and Stetson Bennett.

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    Tillman was an unheralded recruit out of Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman and caught just eight passes in his first three collegiate season. Under Heupel, Tillman blossomed into one of the SEC’s best receivers.

    The 6-foot-3 receiver became Tennessee’s first 1,000 yard receiver since 2012, catching 64 passes for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tillman was a Preseason Second Team All-SEC selection entering the season.

    “No Tennessee player benefited more from the coaching/scheme change to Josh Heupel than Tillman, who became Tennessee’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Justin Hunter in 2012,” ESPN wrote. “Tillman, who caught 72 passes for 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns, is the SEC’s top returning receiver and a national awards candidate alongside quarterback Hendon Hooker.”

    Tillman is the seventh highest ranked receiver on the list and the second highest rated SEC receiver behind just Keyshon Boutte.

    There are 36 SEC players on the top 100 list coming from 11 different schools. Alabama (8), Georgia (7), Arkansas (3) and Texas A&M (3) have more players on the list than Tennessee. LSU, Auburn, Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida tied Tennessee with two plays while Ole Miss and Mississippi State each have one.

    Ryan Schumpert is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. Ryan spent three years with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program before joining RTI. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.