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Heupel updates Hendon Hooker’s status, talks Joe Milton

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Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Not only did Tennessee lose last week against Ole Miss, but starting quarterback Hendon Hooker was forced to leave the game with an injury late in the fourth quarter. The injury didn’t look great, as Hooker was helped off of the field and was unable to put much weight on his leg.

Josh Heupel called Hooker day to day and Monday, and that’s still the diagnosis today.

“He’s still day-to-day at this point,” Heupel said during the SEC teleconference on Wednesday. “Getting some work on the field. As we get to the end of the week, we’ll know if he’ll be available for this one.”

It is notable that Hooker was able to practice some, but Heupel didn’t go into any detail. Heupel said on Monday that Hooker’s injury was not believed to be long-term.

Since taking over for Joe Milton, Hooker has been rock solid for Tennessee. Taking care of the football, making the plays presented to him and really sparking the run game — losing Hooker for any time at all would be a big blow. Heupel has been vague all year with his injury updates, so it’s tough to get a read on where he’s actually at.

Joe Milton is expected to get the start if Hooker is ruled out. The Michigan transfer oozes upside with his 6-5 frame and rocket arm, but his inaccuracy has held back the offense in the times we’ve seen him play.

“There’s been some things that he’s done at a really high level in the pass game and in the run game, too, and there’s been times where he hasn’t executed the way that he’s fully capable of,” Heupel said of Milton on Wednesday. “At that point, that’s the growth of maturity and maturation of a quarterback, he’s got to continue to grow.”

If he does get a chance to play, it will be interesting to see if he’s grown at all with a few more weeks inside of the system. He certainly didn’t help himself last weekend, ending the game on a puzzling decision to run out of bounds on the final play.

Tennessee and Alabama are set for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff on Saturday night. ESPN will have the coverage.