There are a number of different pieces that you could point at to explain Tennessee’s meteoric rise this season. Jalin Hyatt has been an absolute touchdown machine for the Vols while Aaron Beasley has really taken a step up in the middle of Tennessee’s defense. Tennessee’s coaching staff has been next-level in-game over the last couple of months.
But if there’s one player, in particular, to point at regarding Tennessee’s journey this season, it’s quarterback Hendon Hooker.
Hooker has been the key to starting the engine of Tennessee’s top-rated offense. The second-year Tennessee quarterback and current Heisman favorite has done an incredible job with his composure, his preparation, and his decision-making. This is why ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren is so high on Hooker.
On Thursday morning, VanHaaren listed his Top 50 transfers across the college football landscape, with Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker taking the top spot.
“It’s hard to argue any transfer player has had more impact on their respective team than Hooker has with Tennessee,” VanHaaren wrote for ESPN. “Hooker transferred from Virginia Tech before the 2021 season as Joe Milton III‘s backup. He replaced the injured Milton in the second game of last season and finished with 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, entering this season as the Vols’ QB1.”
All throughout the season, Hooker has given credit to his wide receivers, his running backs, and most importantly, his offensive line. Tennessee’s unit up front this season has been playing at a very high level in both the run game and the passing game.
So it makes sense to see Tennessee’s only transfer player on the offensive line also on VanHaaren’s Top 50 transfers list.
Tennessee left tackle Gerald Mincey comes in at No. 23 in the rankings.
“Tennessee surrendered the most sacks in the SEC last year with 44,” VanHaaren wrote. “Mincey, the Vols’ starting left tackle this year, hasn’t allowed a single sack on 271 snaps so far this season. He’s only a redshirt sophomore, so Tennessee will likely have its left tackle for a few more seasons.”
There’s also one other name on the list that will ring a bell for those following Tennessee football.
Former Tennessee and current Alabama linebacker Henry To’o To’o is listed as the No. 17 transfer across college football.
No. 3 Tennessee, Hooker, and Mincey will welcome No. 19 Kentucky to Knoxville this Saturday night under the lights of Neyland Stadium.