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Cedric Tillman opts out of the Orange Bowl

As expected.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

2022 didn’t go according to plan for Cedric Tillman. The senior receiver was supposed to have a massive year, coming off of his breakout 2021 campaign. Tillman went over 1,000 yards last season and chose to come back for more in 2022, choosing not to enter the NFL Draft. However, a high ankle sprain cost him half his season.

Tillman underwent tightrope surgery to help speed up the recovery process. He ended up missing the Florida, LSU and Alabama games, eventually returning against Kentucky. He just never quite was able to get back to form.

With such a frustrating season, Tillman has decided to opt out of the Orange Bowl against Clemson. Considering what he’s been through, it’s easy to understand why.

In six games played this year, Tillman caught 37 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest performance came against Pittsburgh, where he caught nine passes for 162 yards. Tillman caught the go-ahead touchdown in that one too, helping to secure and overtime victory over the Panthers.

Tillman’s best moments in 2021 came against Alabama and Georgia, which NFL evaluators will certainly love. The focus for Tillman is what it has been for the past three months — getting healthy. Getting that explosiveness back ahead of the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine is a must.

For Tennessee, it will be Ramel Keyton stepping into his role once again, just as he did for much of the year. We now wait on Jalin Hyatt to make his NFL decision, as well as his status for the Orange Bowl.