The following is a series comparing current former Tennessee players who recently took part in the NFL combine to former UT standouts.
Cedric Tillman had quite an eventful year. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
The former Tennessee receiver began the 2022 season before it even began by being one of the most talked about players at SEC Media Days in July. The 6-foot-3, 213-pounder looked like he could play defensive end almost as easily as wide receiver as he shuffled from one interview to another in Atlanta. It was readily apparent that Tillman had the size to play receiver in the NFL. As it turns out, his durability was the concern as the season unfolded.
Tillman suffered a high ankle sprain against Ball State in September and his play nor the Vols’ expected dependence on his production was never the same. Tillman underwent a new, innovative procedure to return from his injury sooner than most would have thought. However, he wasn’t the same even when he did eventually return. Moreover, the Vols were just fine without him during their record-setting season in 2022. Once the Vols lost any hope of playing for a championship, Tillman put an end to the comeback.
After missing most of last season, Tillman should be healthy now and he still has the size and stature that NFL teams will love. Here are some former Vols that Tillman has been compared to based on conversations with those familiar with Tennessee’s program.
Kelly Washington and Cedric Wilson
Tillman, because of Covid, is mature like Washington, who played for Tennessee in 2001 and 2002 a brief stint in minor leagues. Washington was 22-years-old when he showed up on Tennessee’s campus in 2001 and was selected in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Washington was expected to be a first-round pick after just one season, but injuries during his sophomore season caused his stock to drop. Tillman is now 22-years-old. Washington, who was nicknamed “The Future” because of his combination of size and speed, showcased many of the same physical tools as Tillman. However, Tillman is a better route runner which draws comparisons to another former Vol.
Cedric Wilson wasn’t as big as Tillman, not even close. Wilson was 5-foot-10 when he was drafted. Wilson made his way at Tennessee and during a seven-year run in the NFL as an incredible route runner. Tillman has that kind of mobility, according to former Tennessee safety Fred White.
The combination of Washington’s athleticism and Wilson’s ability to beat defenders in zone or man coverage should pay dividends for Tillman as long as he’s healthy. There were times in which Tillman displayed some negative body language during his attempted return to the field last season. That was surely noted by the NFL scouts, some of which may question his dedication and attitude. If that’s not an issue then there’s not much that can stop Tillman, other than an untimely injury.