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Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker tears ACL, ending Heisman campaign

Andrew Buller-Russ

To simply say that Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker has been one of the best players in college football during the 2022 season would be selling the dual-threat gunslinger short.

He’s been fantastic.

Hooker has been the driving force behind helping the Vols transform from a 7-6 squad a year ago to now a 9-2 team that can hang with the best teams the SEC has to offer. He’s helped the Volunteers lead the nation with 46.5 points per game while making a strong case to win the Heisman Trophy.

  • Hendon Hooker stats (2022): 69.6% comp rate, 3,135 passing yards, 27 TD, 2 INT

Unfortunately, Hooker’s magical season has come to an end.

Related: Top 10 college football quarterbacks: Drake Maye, C.J. Stroud, and Hendon Hooker all struggle

Hendon Hooker heads to NFL Draft with a big question mark

NCAA Football: Tennessee at South Carolina
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

During Saturday’s loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks, Hooker was running an option play before falling to the ground, untouched. Hooker immediately left the game and would not return.

On Sunday, the official medical prognosis came in, and it’s not good.

The Volunteers announced that Hooker tore the ACL in his left knee. He’ll miss the rest of the season.

While Hooker’s season is now done, the long timeline of the injury recovery process also greatly impacts his standing for the NFL Draft. Hooker, already projected to be a first-round pick, won’t be able to go through any athletic pre-draft drills, removing another chance for teams to evaluate his skills.

Not to mention, now Hooker won’t be able to take the field likely until late into the 2023 NFL season. Keep in mind, Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL in February and has only recently been cleared. Sure, each human is unique, and OBJ and Hooker won’t have the exact same recovery timeline, but it won’t be off by months.

Basically, any team that wants to select Hooker can no longer expect him to be ready to take over from day one as the starting QB.

It may not impact his long-term outlook, but it’s another factor that will slow down one of the NFL’s top incoming draft prospects, and Hooker’s already entering the pros as a bit of an older prospect at 25 years old by the time he joins his new team.

Yet, it likely won’t matter. NFL scouts like Hooker because of his cannon arm in addition to his mobility, but don’t be surprised to hear a lot of chatter about the injury during the pre-draft evaluation process. We’ll see how it impacts his draft stock.

Related: Heisman Watch 2022: Caleb Williams climbs Heisman Trophy rankings before Week 13