Jimmy’s blog: Hooker outplays Levis, proves he’s the better NFL prospect

By Jimmy Hyams

With all due respect to ESPN and Pro Football Focus and anyone else who ranks Will Levis as the No. 2 quarterback in the upcoming NFL – you’re crazy as hell.

Kentucky’s quarterback has a strong arm and a body-builder physique, but he’s not a great quarterback.

And he’s certainly not as good as Hendon Hooker.

Tennessee’s senior quarterback beat Levis for the second game in a row and totally outplayed the Penn State transfer as the No. 3 Vols (8-0) routed the 17th-ranked Wildcats 44-6 before an ESPN audience Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.

Hooker completed 18 of 24 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another to keep alive his Heisman Trophy hopes.

Levis was a miserable 16 of 27 for 98 yards and three interceptions while being sacked four times.

Hey, Todd McShay, you can have Levis.

I’ll take Hooker.

Levis didn’t have much help as his weak offensive line didn’t provide much protection. But even when Levis had time, he was inaccurate and made poor decisions throwing into coverage.

If you like Levis over Hooker, you might like JaMarcus Russell over Peyton Manning. After all, Russell had a much better arm.

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I don’t think it’s close when it comes to evaluating Hooker and Levis as college quarterbacks or pro prospects.

Hooker is the catalyst of an offense that leads the nation in scoring and total offense.

He has an insane touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21 to one. He has completed over 70% of his passes. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns and almost 2,700 total yards.

He is Tennessee’s best quarterback since Manning – and that includes a guy that helped the Vols win a national championship.

Speaking of national championships, isn’t it hard to count out Tennessee?

No team has a better resume. Not team has more wins over ranked opponents (five). No team has a better offense.

And while UT’s secondary has been suspect, it picked off Levis three times. That says something about an improving collection of defensive backs. It also says something about Levis.

Levis is not as good of a decision maker as Hooker. He’s not as accurate. And he doesn’t see the field as well. Those are three important traits in college – and in the NFL.

As for the surprising Vols, only one team the rest of this regular season has a chance to beat Tennessee, and that team is top-ranked Georgia, which hosts the Vols on Saturday.

Since the start of this season, I have been on Georgia’s bandwagon.

I didn’t think Tennessee could beat the defending champions.

I’ve changed my tune. Tennessee’s offense can score against anyone – including Georgia.

Jalin Hyatt has developed into the best receiver in the SEC. Over a 14-quarter stretch, he had 11 touchdown catches. He has set the UT single-season record with 14 scoring catches after two touchdown, five-catch, 138-yard night against Kentucky.

In 2020, Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith had 17 touchdown catches at the time he was voted the Heisman Trophy winner.

That underscores what a brilliant season Hyatt is having.

And now with Cedric Tillman back from an ankle injury, UT’s offense is even more explosive.

The job that Hooker and Hyatt and Josh Heupel and the rest of the players and coaching staff have done in a shot period of time is one of the greatest stories college football has seen in years.

With eight games under its belt, what is Tennessee now chasing?

“A championship,’’ Hooker said. “We want to win the SEC Championship. That’s our goal – to be playing in Atlanta at the end of the season.’’

Hooker has given his team a chance to be in the championship conversation.

Levis has not.

That’s another reason I’d take Hooker.

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