Standout pass-catchers aren’t hard to find, but for Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman, his path to stardom has come via a route less traveled as a fifth-year talent for the Volunteers. Following in the footsteps of Marquez Callaway, Velus Jones Jr., and Josh Palmer, the redshirt senior could be the next Volunteer to make waves on Sundays.
Playing four years in the SEC is rare, let alone five. In a conference littered with NFL talent, players are often champing at the bit to declare for the draft following their third year out of high school, but for Tillman, his game has aged like fine wine. After a 2021 season that saw him eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau—the first Volunteer to do so since 2012—Tillman returns to school to form one of the country’s elite quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the country as Hendon Hooker’s top target.
So @Vol_Football WR Cedric Tillman is the top senior WR in CFB and it isn't close
Tillman is an impressive blend of size, speed & play strength (6'3 215lbs w/ 34.5" arms). Reminds me a Courtland Sutton-type or George Pickens style of CFB WR
SEC Preview on Journey to the Draft pic.twitter.com/EJQI3GBU6W
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 15, 2022
A big target with an even larger performance ceiling, while Tillman won’t draw a spotlight that Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, USC’s Jordan Addison, or LSU’s Kayshon Boutte will, he can flat out get after it on the perimeter. There isn’t much he can’t do as a target hog within head coach Josh Heupel’s offense, as his imposing 6-foot-3 frame allows him to overpower smaller corners. And when the ball is in the air, it’s a wrap, as his hands and body control allow him to consistently haul in passes downfield.
Entering year two with Hooker—an outstanding talent in his own right—the onus is on Tillman to produce even larger numbers if he looks to rise on league-wide NFL draft boards. The tape is there, the frame and athletic ability are there—heck, playing in the SEC helps as well. If Tillman is able to wrangle it all together and dominate once again this fall, his name will quickly become a topic of draft roundtables across the industry.
This is about as good as it gets at the college level—and who better to do it against than Alabama? A simple nine-route to the boundary in a 2×2 set, the throw from Hooker is *chef’s kiss* to Tillman some 42 yards downfield. Although defensive back DeMarcco Hellams did well to make up the gap created by Tillman at the onset of the route, Hooker placed the ball in a spot only his wideout could make a play, which leads me to Tillman.
Opening up your inside hip to locate the football while falling back isn’t your run-of-the-mill reception, and Tillman makes it look so darn easy here, snatching the football out of the air. The play, although it fell into the shadows in a 52-24 Volunteers loss to the Crimson Tide, was a culmination of both Tillman’s explosive playmaking ability, and Hooker’s easy gas under center.
While Tennessee won’t draw national headlines in comparison to its SEC counterparts, Cedric Tillman will be a name to circle this fall. Electric pass-catchers at 6-foot-3 don’t come around too often, and his deep bag of traits should see him become a popular name as we move into the 2023 NFL Draft cycle.
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