One of the best stories of Tennessee’s 2021 team was Cedric Tillman, who emerged as the clear No. 1 target for Hendon Hooker this fall. The former three-star recruit ranked outside of the top 1,500 overall players back in the class of 2018. Tillman has gone from that, to a legitimate NFL Draft prospect.
However, on Thursday, Tillman announced that he would return to the Volunteers for one more season in 2022.
“Since I arrived at Tennessee in 2018, it’s been an amazing experience, and Vol Nation is second to none.
The 2021 season has been a blast with these boys, and we are fired up about finishing the year in Nashville at the Music City Bowl.
We are constantly striving for improvement — as a team and in everything we do. While I have made significant strides in my game this year, I feel like I have much left to prove in the Orange & White.
Therefore, I will be returning for my 2022 senior season in Knoxville.
LET’S RUN IT BACK!”
Tillman had just eight career catches entering the season. Following in the footsteps of Josh Palmer, Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings before him, Tillman was the next guy in line. Luckily for him, he got to play in a much better offense than those three ahead of him. Josh Heupel’s staff came in and totally changed the identity of the Tennessee program. You could argue that it had no bigger impact on any single player than Tillman.
The Las Vegas native caught 57 passes for 931 yards and nine scores this season. Should he go over 100 yards in the Music City Bowl next week, he will become Tennessee’s first 1,000 receiver since Justin Hunter back in 2012 — which is probably one of the sadder stats you’ll ever hear.
Tillman found the NFL’s radar because he performed in big spots. 152 yards against Alabama and 200 against Georgia opened plenty of eyes, and now he will return as one of the top receivers in the SEC entering the 2022 season.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker is also set to return next season, now along with his top receiver and top two tight ends. With Velus Jones Jr. and JaVonta Payton officially exiting, getting Tillman back is a massive deal. Behind him, it will be up to Jalin Hyatt, Jimmy Calloway and other more inexperienced pieces to emerge.