Tennessee received a major blow Saturday when Hendon Hooker’s college career ended with a torn ACL in a loss at South Carolina.
The injury marks the end of one of Tennessee’s best ever quarterback’s career. In less than two seasons (23 total games and 22 starts), Hooker threw for 6,080 passing yards, 58 passing touchdowns and five interceptions while adding 1,050 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
“Hate it for him,” Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel said. “Just how much he’s poured into it and the competitor that he is and how much he’s grown and the opportunity still here on the back half of the season for him. He represents everything good in college football. A young man that’s learned how to become a grown man and that does it the right way and cares about his teammates.”
With Hooker sidelined the rest of the season, Joe Milton III takes the reigns as Tennessee’s starting quarterback the rest of the season.
Milton was Tennessee’s starter to begin the 2021 season before an injury knocked him out of the Pitt game and Hooker’s strong play led to a change at quarterback. Milton, a Michigan transfer, has played sparingly as a back up since being replaced as starting quarterback— posting solid numbers.
“Joe has grown a bunch,” Heupel said. “You guys have seen the way he’s played when he’s been given the opportunity. He’s got really good command of what we’re doing. We don’t change what we do and he’ll be ready to go in this one.”
Thinks get dicey behind Milton due to Tennessee’s lack of quarterback depth. Four-star freshman Tayven Jackson is out for the entirety of the season after breaking his collarbone in the Vols’ victory over UT Martin.
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That means Milton is Tennessee’s only scholarship quarterback that is available against the Commodores. Gaston Moore is listed as Tennessee’s back up quarterback on its depth chart with Navy Shuler being another walk on quarterback option.
“Gaston and Navy are two guys that have been in our system for a while— Gaston in particular,” Heupel said.
Milton has proved a solid runner in his time at Tennessee, totaling xxx total rushing yards in his Volunteer career. While the lack of depth behind him indicates the Vols might play conservatively and not run Milton, Heupel says otherwise.
“We have to go play and find a way to win this game,” Heupel said. “We’ll use him as needed, in the run game too.”
Kick off between Tennessee and Vanderbilt is at 7:30 p.m. ET. Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic are on the call for SEC Network.