It wasn’t the senior season that Cedric Tillman had in mind, that’s for sure. Tennessee’s dynamic outside threat missed the majority of the 2022 season after taking a low shot to the ankle against Akron. A high ankle sprain was the diagnosis, and it forced him to miss three of the biggest games of Tennessee’s season.
Tillman was sidelined for the Florida, Alabama and LSU matchups. Thankfully for Tennessee, Jalin Hyatt emerged as an elite threat during that span. Tillman worked his way back into the lineup against Kentucky, then was able to go again against Georgia.
However, it was clear that the explosiveness just wasn’t there.
“Just the competitor in me,” Tillman said of his want to return. “I wanted to come back a few weeks before. I did everything I could to try to go out there. I knew I wasn’t maybe not quite right, but I wanted to fight for my team. You’ve got to go out there, everybody’s nicked up and bruised up toward the back half of the season, so hopefully my teammates appreciated it, but that’s just the competitor in me wanting to go out there and play.”
Tillman admitted that he was only about “80 percent” when he returned. The injury cost him most of his season, and it also cost him a chance to compete during Senior Bowl week. However, now in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, Tillman is ready to go through all of the on-field drills. Tillman believes he’s back to full strength, a little over five months since the injury occured.
The former diamond-in-the-rough prospect turned into a legitimate NFL prospect in 2021, showing up in the biggest spots for Tennessee. His tape against Alabama and Georgia gives you a glimpse of what he was when healthy, and his Pitt tape from 2022 certainly backed that up as well.
Tillman has deceptive speed and outstanding 50-50 ball ability down the field. Josh Heupel utilized Tillman as a field stretcher, putting his 6-4 frame to good use. All eyes will be on Tillman in the 40 yard dash, as scouts want to see him get back to that 2021 form.
It’s always difficult to project landing spots with injuries like this. Team doctors will want to check that ankle out and clear it themselves before spending a draft pick on him. Now the one-time potential first rounder will attempt to gain back some of that draft stock with a strong showing in Indianapolis.
Tillman hits the field on Saturday, along with Jalin Hyatt as the wide receivers go through their drills.