College Football QB Power Rankings: CJ Stroud reclaims No. 1 as Hendon Hooker’s injury causes major upset

Last week, I was speculating about the health of Alabama’s Bryce Young in this space. Unfortunately, there is no speculation this week about Tennessee star quarterback Hendon Hooker, who tore his cruciate ligament during the Week 12 loss to South Carolina. The non-contact injury was not looking good at the time and the worst fears were confirmed on Sunday : Hooker is out for the remainder of the season in what is a horrible way to end a campaign destined to earn him a spot as Heisman – Grant finalist.

Now that’s probably out the window, and Hooker’s injury could impact how the Vols are viewed as a potential New Year’s Six team. But no matter what, Hooker is hurt worse than anyone. In Knoxville, Tennessee, he will always be remembered as the hero of the season in which Tennessee football seemed to be reborn, but his future isn’t nearly as clear.

I think Hooker is an NFL-caliber QB. Others I’ve spoken to in the industry think the same way, while there are plenty of skeptics as well. That’s the case with almost every QB prospect, but Hooker has to overcome some perceptions that aren’t his fault.

When I watch hooker play, I see a player who has mastered a very different offense than what he anticipated when he made the move to Tennessee from Virginia Tech. Despite being a simple offense, Hooker made the best of it. It’s one thing to know the throw; it’s another to make it. And he did it, over and over again.

Still, there are doubts because the offense Hooker plays on has produced many incredible collegiate seasons, but with players who aren’t NFL material. They don’t have the overall arm strength or athleticism that teams are looking for. So there are skeptics about Hooker as he isn’t the physical prototype and that’s where this ACL violation hurts him.

Hooker’s injury will prevent him from training with teams in the spring to ease those fears. It will also slow down his development with the team he eventually ends up with. That’s the biggest blow of all for me. But considering what Hooker has done throughout his college career, I’m confident this is the next obstacle he will overcome. I hope he understands that these power rankings have a “no injuries” policy, so he won’t be ranked this week.

We still love him and wish him all the best.

Not rated anymore: Hendon Hooker, Tennessee; Stetson Bennett, Georgia

recognitions: Spencer Rattler, South Carolina; Jaren Hall, BYU; Chase Cunningham, Central Tennessee; Clayton Tune, Houston; Byrum Brown, South Florida


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