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Hendon Hooker
CFB

Can Hendon Hooker Solidify Himself As First-Rounder vs. Georgia?

  • Justin Melo
  • November 3, 2022
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The 8-0 Tennessee Volunteers take on the 8-0 Georgia Bulldogs in this weekend’s premier college football matchup. Undefeated Tennessee earned the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff’s initial Top 25 rankings on Tuesday, marking the first time in the program’s history it cracked the top four. Saturday’s showdown carries massive implications. Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker can continue elevating his soaring draft stock by catapulting his Volunteers to victory over the Bulldogs.

Hooker is overseeing a dominant Tennessee offense. Josh Heupel’s offense is averaging 49.4 points per game and leads the FBS in total offense. Tennessee is scoring 10 points more per contest than they did last season (39.3) and an astounding 27.9 more than they scored under Jeremy Pruitt in 2020 (21.5). Georgia’s defense represents a different challenge altogether, however.

A fierce Bulldogs defense has allowed their opponents to score just 84 total points through eight contests, or 10.5 points per game. Their scoring defense ranks second in the nation out of 131 qualifying programs, trailing just Illinois (8.9/contest). But the third-ranked Bulldogs’ resume has come into question. Disregarding a dominant Week 1 victory over Oregon, Georgia’s opponents are currently a combined 22-26. Hooker isn’t the only one with something to prove.

Georgia’s defense is spearheaded by potential top-five selection Jalen Carter, who’s a game-wrecker up the middle. Carter is surrounded by several future NFL talents, including cornerback Kelee Ringo and safety Christopher Smith. It’s worth noting senior EDGE Nolan Smith is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle after suffering the injury in last weekend’s win over Florida. Smith is currently leading the Bulldogs in sacks with 3.0 quarterback takedowns.

Hooker already finds himself in the 2023 NFL Draft first-round conversation following a standout showing against Alabama in mid-October. Hooker completed 21-of-30 passing attempts throughout that triumph for 385 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception. Hooker strung together a 45-yard drive in the dying 13 seconds that set the Volunteers up for the game-winning field goal.

Tennessee’s 52-49 victory over Alabama qualifies as the most impressive win any program has secured this season. It ultimately propelled Tennessee to the No. 1 seed in the current playoff rankings. Another opportunity to confirm their elite status against Georgia awaits them.

The No. 84 overall prospect in our latest TDN100 update, Hooker has completed 156-of-219 passing attempts (71.2%) for 2,338 yards, 21 touchdowns, and one interception. A dual-threat weapon, Hooker has added 338 rushing yards and four additional touchdowns to his offensive totals. Hooker’s quarterback rating of 191.6 trails just Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (200.2) in the entire nation, via ESPN Stats & Info. A fifth-year senior and grad transfer, Hooker’s ascension to elite signal-caller has arguably been college football’s most heartwarming story through the 2022 campaign.

Hendon Hooker is currently carving out a special legacy for himself at Tennessee. The Volunteers faithful haven’t been this excited over a quarterback since Peyton Manning was under center. Hooker’s legend and pre-draft stock will continue to grow should he manage to lead the Volunteers to victory over the Bulldogs.

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Justin Melo