Plain and simple, Jalin Hyatt was the most electrifying player in college football during the 2022 season. There really wasn’t much of a warning, either. Hyatt emerged as the guy in Tennessee’s offense after Cedric Tillman went down with a high ankle sprain, powering the Volunteers to wins over LSU and Alabama.
His five touchdown performance against the Crimson Tide gave Tennessee their first win against Alabama since 2006, immediately putting him among the legends of the program.
Now Hyatt will take his talents to the NFL, and he’s a fairly interesting evaluation. Is Hyatt a true gamebreaker — or simply a product of Josh Heupel’s system?
Size: 6-0, 176 pounds (over 180 at his pro day)
40 yard dash: 4.40 seconds
10 yard split: 1.5 seconds
Broad: 11’ 3”
Hyatt came to Tennessee as a four-star prospect, playing his first season in more of a pro-style attack under Jeremy Pruitt. He made a little noise as a true freshman, ironically enough with his best game coming against Alabama.
When Josh Heupel arrived, Hyatt was a natural pick to benefit. Early on, it seemed like that was going to happen pretty quickly. However, an injury against Pittsburgh during that 2021 season quickly stopped any momentum. Hyatt seemed to fall out of the top rotation even after returning from injury. Heupel noted that Hyatt had some work to do heading into the offseason, and it sure seemed like he took that advice to heart.
Hyatt didn’t really emerge until Tillman went down, but he eventually became the focal point of the offense. His speed put so much stress on defenses, which seemed to open everything up for the rest of the offense. Tennessee worked him out of the slot and creatively put him in spots to win, scheming up free releases and letting him get up to speed quickly.
Hyatt finished the year with 1,267 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. He opted out of the Orange Bowl.
Hyatt has one big selling point, and it’s a very important one. You can’t fake speed, and Hyatt has plenty of it. A 4.40 in the 40 yard dash honestly underwhelmed, but his speed on tape is legitimate. Hyatt glides down the field, easily grabbing another gear to leave defensive backs in pursuit.
Teams will take issue with a couple of things, however. He played at 175 pounds last year and checks in at 6-foot flat. He’s not going to out-muscle any NFL defender for a jump ball. He hasn’t proven that he can get off of physical jams at the line of scrimmage, either.
Like I said above, Tennessee was very creative with how they put him in places where he could win. Because of this, the NFL likely has questions about his ability to run a full route tree, given he played in such a unique offense at the college level. Will he be able to adjust to a more pro-style approach?
So while the speed and athletic ability are there, plenty of questions remain. These smaller speedsters tend to be boom or bust types — think DeSean Jackson, Ted Ginn, Will Fuller. Hyatt brings immediate value to an offense, thanks to the attention he’s going to demand, but it remains to be seen if he become a high-level player at the next level.