Hendon Hooker injury: Tennessee star QB misses rest of season after tearing cruciate ligament in loss to South Carolina

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Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker will miss the rest of the season after losing the No. 5 volunteers suffered cruciate ligament tears in their left knees. 63-38 road loss to South Carolina on Saturday. Tennessee announced the extent of the injury on Sunday afternoon, ending a potential All-America season.

The Heisman Trophy contender kept the ball on a read zone and suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee trying to slice through a hole to gain yardage. He went down in obvious pain and hobbled from the field to the injury tent. The game was reviewed and ruled a fumble after Hooker was initially ruled out. Hooker eventually went into the locker room under his own steam when backup Joe Milton came on in his place.

Hooker was the most valuable player of Tennessee’s dream season. The senior had 3,135 passing yards, 430 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns with just two interceptions for the Volunteers’ high-profile offense. Hooker threw five touchdowns in Tennessee’s first upset win over then-No. 1 Alabama since the year before Nick Saban took over in 2006.

The senior transferred from Virginia Tech to Tennessee before last season and took over as a staring quarterback after Week 2 of the 2021 season. He threw for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and three interceptions last season while adding 613 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

Disappointing ending

Hooker has put together one of the greatest quarterback seasons in Tennessee history. In just 11 games, Hooker ranks fifth in program history for passing yards in a season and has two of the top five touchdown seasons in program history overall, along with the likes of Peyton Manning and Josh Dobbs.

Hooker still has a chance to earn a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist for his efforts. Unfortunately, missing out on the regular season finale and missed championship weekend will likely hurt his chances. The volunteers won’t be the same, with Joe Milton III in the lineup in place of Hooker Saturday vs. Vanderbilt.

NFL Draft Stock

More than his college football career, Hooker’s unfortunate injury has the potential to derail the beginning of his NFL career. Hooker has already been pulled down on his age as he will be 25 by the time of the 2023 NFL draft. With an injury this protracted, Hooker could be out for his entire first season in the league.

CBS Sports Ryan Wilson rates Hooker as a Day 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but it’s unclear how much his inability to coach for teams could limit his advantages during the process. However, his 944 career pass attempts and a winning work ethic should still earn him a shot at the next level.

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