Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee receivers Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt are off to the NFL and opting out of the Vols’ Orange Bowl matchup. Tillman announced his intentions on Monday while Hyatt announced his plan — including that he would be at the Orange Bowl — Wednesday afternoon.
Hyatt and Tillman were the Vols’ star receivers over the last two years and benefitted greatly from Josh Heupel’s arrival in Knoxville.
Tillman — who’s two grades ahead of Hyatt — caught eight passes for 124 yards in his first three years in Knoxville before breaking out in 2021. The lowly rater high school prospect became Tennessee’s first 1,000 yard receiver since 2012.
The Las Vegas native had an extremely frustrating senior season. Tillman dominated in an early season win over Pitt but suffered a high ankle sprain a week later against Akron that highly affected his final college campaign. Tillman missed the next four games due to injury and even when he returned he was in-and-out of the lineup and not as effective as he previously was.
Hyatt didn’t have a big 2021 season under Heupel. Velus Jones Jr. became Tennessee’s starting receiver forcing Hyatt into a reduced role where he contributed but didn’t shine.
The South Carolina native said this offseason that he looked in the mirror and decided he was to blame for his lack of success. The former four-star recruit rededicated himself and put in the work that led to a monster junior season.
Hyatt won the Biletnikoff Award — given annually to the nation’s top receiver — and earned both All American and All SEC honor this season. The slot receiver most notably dominated Alabama in a 200-plus yard and five touchdown game.
Both Tillman and Hyatt will be remembered as the first great receivers Heupel coached at Tennessee. Jones Jr. probably deserves to be in that group too but both Hyatt and Tillman took it to a whole new level. They’ll both long be remembered for what they did to bring Tennessee football back to relevance.
Let’s take a look at Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman’s college careers by the numbers.
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2018: 1 catch, -3 yards
2019: 4 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown
2020: 3 catches, 67 yards and a touchdown
2021: 64 catches, 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns
2022: 37 catches, 417 yards and three touchdowns
2020: 20 catches, 276 yards and two touchdowns
2021: 21 catches, 226 yards and two touchdowns
2022: 67 catches, 1,267 and 15 touchdowns