Vols' Hendon Hooker Among Nation's Top QBs After Week Six

The Volunteers quarterback is among the nation's best after week six.

Hendon Hooker was not Tennessee's starter until week three of the season, but he saw his workload increase at the mid-point of the week two game against Pittsburgh. Hooker lost a tight position battle to Michigan transfer Joe Milton III ahead of the season-opener against Bowling Green, but he was ready to go when his number was called, and now he has a stronghold on the quarterback position in Knoxville, which has resulted in him being ranked among the nation's top signal-callers after week six.

After Hooker's 17-23 for 225 yards and three touchdown passing performance on Saturday, the veteran passer surged into the top five in passing efficiency, slightly ahead of Ole Miss's Matt Corral and just behind Texas's Casey Thompson. You can view the entire list here. 

The stat is based on 100 minimum passing attempts, and Hooker currently has a 185.89 efficiency rating, which is top in the SEC and fifth in the nation. 

Hooker has connected on 78 of his 112 passing attempts, but the reason his efficiency rating has remained so high is because he has only thrown one interception. 

Success on first down and other players securing the ball and being in the right place at the right time is another key reason that Hooker has experienced success, and it is something Josh Heupel credited to his team following Saturday's 45-20 victory over South Carolina. 

"Guys doing the little things right," Heupel said about how Tennessee has protected the football. "When you have it in your hands, securing the football, you have to take care of it. It’s the little things of how you carry it, putting your second hand on it when you’re in traffic, and getting pad under pads, so they don’t get a helmet on the football. There are other things too like protections in your pass game. Having good decision-makers, wide receivers being in the spot and catching the football play into having no turnovers as well as other things. There are a lot of things that play into it, not just one position. It’s all on guys doing their job at the highest level."

For Hooker, he may just be scratching the surface of his potential in the new offensive system on Rocky Top because Josh Heupel believes there is room to grow more. 

"Hendon’s continuing to grow and develop offensively," Heupel said Saturday. "To have complete command of what we’re doing. That’s in the run game, that’s in the pass game, it's understanding protections. You can see that we trust the ball in his hands in certain situations too and continues to grow and take great care of the football. He has great command and the players have responded to him in a really positive way."

Hooker will likely face his toughest test of the season on Saturday, as Ole Miss will come to Knoxville boasting one of the most efficient offensive attacks in the nation, which will force the Vols to score points to keep up. Hooker will have his chance to go head-to-head with Heisman hopeful Matt Corral as well. 

The game is set to kickoff at 7:30 ET on Saturday night.