Vols QB Hendon Hooker coming back for another year

After throwing 26 TD passes compared to just three interceptions, Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker announced he's returning to the Vols for the 2022 campaign.

Tennessee’s star quarterback Hendon Hooker is returning in 2022.

The transfer from Virginia Tech enjoyed a breakout campaign in Josh Heupel’s high-octane offensive attack. Despite not becoming the starter until Week 3, Hooker completed 180-of-261 passes (69.0%) for 2,567 yards with a stellar 26/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

He also ran for 561 yards and five TDs, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.

Hooker had one of his best performances in a 45-42 win at Kentucky as a one-point road favorite. He completed 15-of-20 passes for 316 yards and four TDs without an interception.

Hooker also destroyed Missouri’s defense (and my wallet) in a 62-24 win when UT was a 2.5-point road underdog. He connected on 15-of-19 throws for 225 yards and three TDs without an interception. He also torched the Tigers for 80 rushing yards and one TD on 15 attempts.

In his 10 starts, Hooker only threw two interceptions — one at Alabama and one vs. Georgia. The Vols scored at least 45 points in six of those starts.

Hooker now has 25 career starts to his credit, making 15 of those for the Hokies. For his career, he has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 5,461 yards with a 48/10 TD-INT ratio.

Hooker also has 1,594 career rushing yards, 20 TDs and a 4.0 YPC average.

Tennessee is 7-5 straight up and 5-7 against the spread. The ‘over’ has cashed in five consecutive games and seven of its last eight. The lone ‘under’ was in a 31-26 home loss to Ole Miss when the 57 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 82.5-point total (the highest of the season in all of college football).

The Vols are set to face Purdue (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) at the Music City Bowl in Nashville at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 30 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. This will essentially be a home game for UT with its rabid fan base excited about the program’s direction under Heupel.

As of Dec. 13, most books had Tennessee installed as a 4.5-point ‘chalk’ with the total in the 63-64 range. The Boilermakers were anywhere from +155 to +170 on the money line, while the Vols were favored by three for first-half wagers.

I like the Vols -4 (buying the half-point because I consider four a key number like three and seven) for the game and for a smaller amount, I’m on UT -3 in the first half.

I’d probably like UT at those numbers anyway, but I’m extremely bullish on those plays since Purdue is going to be without its two best players. WR David Bell and DE George Karlaftis have already declared for the NFL Draft and opted out of the bowl game.

In 11 games this year, Bell had 93 receptions for 1,286 yards and six TDs. In three seasons for the Boilermakers, he had 232 catches for 2,946 yards and 21 TDs. He also had 51 rushing yards and one TD on just six attempts (8.5 YPC).

In 2021, Karlaftis recorded 41 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, eight QB hurries, five sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two passes broken up, one blocked kick and one 56-yard fumble return for a TD. As a freshman in 2019, Karlaftis produced 54 tackles, 17 TFL’s, 7.5 sacks, four QB hurries, two PBU, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one interception.

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