Joe Milton III has a lot to live up to this year given the two seasons Hendon Hooker enjoyed as the Tennessee Football starting quarterback. Could he have one of the top 10 seasons by a signal caller in school history? These are the years he has to beat out.
10. Tyler Bray – 2012
It was really hard to put this on the list. Tyler Bray showed no leadership and panicked every late-game drive. The Vols went 5-7 this year. However, you can’t ignore the stats. Bray threw for over 3,600 yards along with 34 touchdowns, and he was shackled by the worst defense in school history. If he had any intangibles, he’d be top five.
9. Tee Martin – 1998
The national championship alone puts this on here. Tee Martin threw for 2,164 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for another 287 yards and seven touchdowns. Add in the South Carolina game, and he clearly belongs here. Martin had more total yards in 1999 but fewer touchdowns, more interceptions and a lower completion percentage.
8. Casey Clausen – 2003
With no running game and really no go-to receivers in 2003, Casey Clausen still somehow willed the Vols to a share of the SEC East title, throwing for just under 3,000 yards with 27 touchdowns. Although he had more yards and a higher completion percentage in 2001, that’s pretty easy when you have Dont’e Stallworth, Kelley Washington, Jason Witten and the SEC’s leading rusher.
7. Peyton Manning – 1995
It was the breakout season for Peyton Manning and Tennessee Football in the 1990s. Manning threw for 2,954 yards and 22 touchdowns with just four interceptions en route to an 11-1 record. Although he threw for over 300 more yards in 1996, he had two fewer touchdowns and three times as many picks. That kept the ’96 season off the list.
6. Heath Shuler – 1993
Expectations were high for Heath Shuler in Phillip Fulmer’s first season as full-time head coach, and Shuler delivered. With David Cutcliffe as his offensive coordinator, Shuler threw for 2,354 yards and ran for another 73, scoring 28 total touchdowns en route to a Heisman Trophy runner-up campaign and a 9-2-1 record.
5. Erik Ainge – 2007
One of the greatest turnaround stories in Tennessee Football history, Erik Ainge went from a disaster in 2005 to willing the Vols to the SEC East title in 2007. Despite no experienced elite receivers, he threw for over 3,500 yards and 31 touchdowns. His finest performance was a seven-touchdown masterpiece in a four-overtime win over the Kentucky Wildcats to clinch the East the final week of the regular season.
4. Hendon Hooker – 2021
Coming off the bench in Week Two, Hendon Hooker immediately helped Josh Heupel’s offense take off his first year on Rocky Top. Hooker threw for over 2,900 yards and ran for another 616 while scoring 36 total touchdowns with an insanely low three picks. Add in his over nine and a half yards per attempt, and his efficiency was through the roof.
3. Joshua Dobbs – 2016
Butch Jones was able to extend his career on Rocky Top solely due to Josh Dobbs, and no Dobbs season was like his senior year. He threw for over 2,900 yards and ran for another 830 while scoring 39 total touchdowns. In terms of total offense, scoring and yards, this is the second most productive season in history for a UT quarterback.
2. Hendon Hooker – 2022
If not for his season-ending injury the second to last week of the season, Hendon Hooker’s 2022 campaign may be No. 1. It’s still No. 2, though, as he threw for over 3,100 yards and ran for another 430 while scoring 32 total touchdowns with just two interceptions. A huge five-touchdown performance in a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide solidified his legacy for this year.
1. Peyton Manning – 1997
Despite no Josh Heupel offense, Peyton Manning still has the most productive season for a quarterback in Tennessee Football history in terms of total offense. His 1997 campaign validated his decision to come back, as he threw for over 3,800 yards and 36 touchdowns en route to an SEC Championship. He also should have won the Heisman Trophy but came closer than anybody else.