Will Hendon Hooker’s success at Tennessee translate to NFL?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For Hendon Hooker, it is all the time the identical critiques that come from these dissecting his sport, as a result of offense he performed in at Tennessee

It is humorous to him. 

“There are lots of intricacies that go into what we do and the way we do it,” Hooker mentioned at Tennessee Professional Day on Thursday. 

There are additionally the questions on his well being, as Hooker tore the ACL in his left knee in November. His age is introduced up, too — how he’ll flip 26 subsequent January, older than ascending NFL quarterbacks who have already got a number of years of professional expertise just like the ChargersJustin Herbert, Jaguars‘ Trevor Lawrence and Dolphins‘ Tua Tagovailoa

However arguably the largest concern from draft pundits is: Can Hooker succeed outdoors of the Vols’ timing-based, unfold system? 

Josh Heupel’s offense is without doubt one of the quickest and most explosive in school soccer — Tennessee final season led the FBS in scoring (46.1 factors per sport) and complete offense (525.5 yards per sport) — but it surely would not require the quarterback to undergo full discipline progressions. The offense thrives off tempo, vast splits and receivers being quick and decisive in response to the defenders post-snap. 

Hooker desires to make one thing clear. 

“There are lots of issues it’s a must to course of, so the psychological aspect of the sport is at an all-time excessive,” he defined of the offense. “The bodily aspect of the sport, it seems straightforward as a result of we make it look straightforward.”

Hooker, who spent his first three school seasons at Virginia Tech, additionally had extra accountability on the line of scrimmage this previous 12 months for Tennessee, in comparison with his first in Knoxville. He managed among the Vols’ run and RPO sport, based on Heupel. He had field checks, alerts and kills on the line of scrimmage, too. 

Throughout two seasons at Tennessee, the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Hooker accomplished 68.8% of his passes for six,080 yards and 58 touchdowns to simply 5 interceptions. He led the FBS with 9.5 yards per move try in 2022. 

These stats have made him a projected early spherical decide, with many believing he might go within the first spherical. His inventory has risen within the pre-draft course of. Former NFL normal supervisor and present ESPN NFL insider Mike Tannenbaum mocked Hooker going fifth general to the Seahawks. 

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“I am unsure anyone in school soccer has extra on their plate then Hendon does,” Heupel mentioned. “Then you definately throw within the tempo we play at. He managed your entire sport on each single play, and I feel that places him in an ideal spot to have the ability to transition to the subsequent stage, deal with all that is coming and deal with it at a really excessive stage.

“I have been getting lots of questions on scheme and [NFL] guys that need to incorporate lots of what we’re doing,” he added. “I feel it’ll transition simply high quality. You have a look at the NFL, school soccer, the way it’s impacted the best way that sport is being performed now. Numerous what’s occurring on this stage is transitioning upward, not essentially simply downward.”

Hooker prides himself on management — being personable and energetic, speaking together with his teammates and training employees at a excessive stage. “It is overwhelming how nicely he does every thing,” Vols teammate and fellow draft prospect Jerome Carvin mentioned. 

Hooker helped restore Tennessee soccer’s nationwide prominence, based on these near this system. The Volunteers gained 11 video games final season and had been rated as excessive as No. 2 within the AP ballot for the primary time in 21 years. 

“By no means been round anyone who’s been a stronger or extra impactful chief than Hendon Hooker,” Heupel mentioned. “Our program is just not the place it is at at present until Hendon is part of our locker room. He is a fierce competitor, someone that our guys fed off of. That is when issues had been going nice and when issues had been possibly not going nice. He’ll be the identical man that is true to his character, true to who he’s. 

“That is the identical man that some NFL franchise goes to get.”

Tennessee vast receiver Jalin Hyatt, a fellow early spherical prospect within the upcoming draft, has recognized Hooker since their days taking part in AAU basketball in highschool.

“I’ve a lot respect for him and what he is achieved right here,” Hyatt mentioned. “I hope he goes down as one of many all-time greats right here for positive.”

Critics apart, that is on the desk. 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand labored for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Community, the place he was the Titans beat author for a 12 months and a half. He lined the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for 3 seasons (2018-20) previous to shifting to Tennessee. You may observe Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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