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Tennessee football: Jalin Hyatt declaring for NFL Draft, opting out of bowl a huge missed opportunity

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It’s not the biggest surprise ever, but Tennessee football will be without its Biletnikoff Award winning wide receiver in the Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers. Jalin Hyatt announced he would enter the NFL Draft Wednesday.

Earlier that morning, Hyatt teased a 1 p.m. ET announcement on his Instagram Story. He then revealed his decision to go pro on Twitter but added he’d be in Miami with the team for its bowl game.

Hyatt’s decision is understandable, but it was a bit of a gut punch to Tennessee football. Normally, teasing an announcement like that suggests he’s returning.

On top of that, Hyatt just signed a deal for NIL representation less than a week ago. He has also inked a recent NIL deal with Hyatt Hotels.

Taking all of this into account, it seemed as if he was staying. Not coming back, though, will also cost him a huge opportunity beyond NIL money.

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With 67 catches for 1,267 yards, Hyatt is 31 yards away from Robert Meachem’s single-season school record for receiving yards in a season. He already has the school record for touchdowns this year with 15, three scores clear of anybody else.

However, it seems pretty likely that Hyatt could have broken Meachem’s record in the Orange Bowl. He’s had at least 58 yards in in his last 11 games.

A tougher record to catch but still attainable is Marcus Nash’s single-season record for receptions in a season. Hyatt is nine away from that, a number he only hit once this year, when he had 11 at the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Still, that record is possible too. If he had played in the Orange Bowl, he could’ve swept all the records to have the clear-cut greatest season in Tennessee football history for a receiver.

Of course, you don’t come back and play in a bowl game just to achieve some school records. Hyatt has to do what’s best for him, and that’s understandable.

The Vols have now lost two different 1,000-yard receivers from each of the past two years for their bowl. Cedric Tillman, who has been battling an ankle injury, revealed he would focus on the NFL Draft as well.

Obviously, they are going to be without their leading passer in Hendon Hooker the past two years as well. Oh, and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh, now head coach of the South Florida Bulls, won’t coach in the bowl game.

Simply put, everybody behind making this offense set records for Tennessee football the past two years won’t be a part of the bowl game. That leaves a lot on Josh Heupel’s plate, but he should be able to handle it.

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