Transcript: All 32 NFL Teams Watch Vols at Pro Day, NFL Draft on Deck

Transcript: All 32 NFL Teams Watch Vols at Pro Day, NFL Draft on Deck

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Momentum continues to build for the future 2023 Tennessee NFL Draft class that went through Pro Day in front of all 32 NFL teams on Thursday afternoon inside the Anderson Training Center.

With NFL Network and NFL Films on hand along with dozens of NFL personnel, the Volunteers showcased their skills with the focus centered mostly on position-specific drills. A significant portion of Tennessee players stuck with their NFL Combine numbers.

Offensive tackle Darnell Wright, quarterback Hendon Hooker, wide receivers Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt and edge rusher Byron Young continue to garner praise among NFL scouts. Hooker didn’t participate in on-field drills as he continues to recover from injury, but he did meet with NFL teams on Thursday.

Quotes from Tennessee’s Pro Day are below.

Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel

Opening Statement
“This is the first time that I’ve had an opportunity to speak publicly this week. Just recognizing from our program, myself, our prayers and thoughts are with the entire community in Nashville. Certainly, with the teachers, administrators, students, everybody that was there at Covenant School. It’s hard to put it into words. As a parent, two of my own, how that happens and the tragedy—our hearts are hurt, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire community.”

On pride he feels watching players go through draft process…
“When they finish their last game and they embark on this process, there is a lot of nervous energy, and a lot of decisions that have to be made. For them, there are so many situations that they get thrust into for the first time. It can be at the Combine, it can be at interviews at the combine, it can be at the Pro Day here which ends the physical part of the process for them. I’m really proud of this group of guys, how they handled the entire process, just the feedback that I’ve gotten today, the feedback that I’ve gotten after the Combine and after some of the postseason bowl games. I thought physically our guys did a great job of preparing themselves. Testing numbers between the Combine and today have been fantastic. I think that speaks to who these guys are, some of the development that we have inside of our program, Coach (Kurt) Schmidt, our strength and conditioning leader. I’m proud of what they did. In the individual drills I thought they handled themselves in a really good way. Our guys catching the football, our defensive guys in their movement patterns, breaking on the football and offensive line guys did a great job too. I’m really proud of what they showed today.”

On what Hendon Hooker did at the line of scrimmage and how quickly he processed information…
“I’m not sure anybody in college football has more on their plate than Hendon (Hooker) does. Then, you throw in the tempo that we play at, you have got to be a quick decision maker, you have got to recognize defensive structure extremely quickly. He controls some of our run game. He controls the RPO game, making a decision on every snap. He’s got loaded box checks. He’s got alerts. He’s got kills. He controlled the entire game on every single play. I think that puts him in a great position to be able to transition at the next level and handle all that’s coming at him and be able to handle it at a very high level.”

On what stood out the most about Hendon Hooker’s leadership…
“I’ve never been around anybody that’s been a stronger or more impactful leader than Hendon Hooker is. Our program is not where it’s at today unless Hendon is a part of our locker room. He’s smart, he cares, he loves his teammates. You feel his energy every single day when he walks into the building and out on the practice field. He’s a fierce competitor, somebody that our guys fed off of. That’s when things were going great and when things maybe weren’t going great. He’s been dynamic for us and he’ll be the same guy. That’s true to his character, true to who he is. That’s the same guy that some NFL franchise is going to get.”

On how impactful it can be on recruiting to be able to get guys to the NFL are drafted well and are prepared…
“We’ve got really good players that are here currently. They are getting developed at an elite level in our offseason program. Structurally, what we do schematically on offense, defense and special teams it’s putting those guys in a position to showcase their physical attributes but also stress them and grow them in their understanding of concepts. That will all transition to the next level. This group of guys, we’re going to have a lot of high draft picks that come out of it. Hope the way that we’re recruiting, the guys that we’re bringing in, the development that we have here we will continue to have that.”

On pride he takes in growing players more than just physically
“I think it’s important. If you’re going to play at a high level, physical talent is one thing, but you got to be developed fundamentally and you got to understand the game—what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how that’s impacted by what you’re seeing on the other side of the football. Growing these guys and their football IQ is something that we spend a ton of time on in our offseason and spring ball and during the course of training camp and the leadup to kickoff. The reason we’ve grown as a program, our players have great trust in who’s in the building, the culture that we’ve built, and they understand that we’re helping them grow to become their best and achieve their goals and dreams.”

On what response should be to the offensive system translating to the next level…
“I’ve been getting a lot of questions about scheme, guys that want to incorporate a lot of what we’re doing. I think it will transition just fine. You look at the NFL, college football, how it’s impacted the way that that game is being played now. A lot of what is happening on this level is transitioning upward, not necessarily just downward.”

On if Byron Young’s 40 time at the combine was surprising…
“We did know he was physically gifted. We’ve seen that whether it was going to be 4.43 or 4.45. Really excited about what he’s done, how he’s ran, how he’s jumped. If you look at his individual drills today, he’s continuing to put himself where he’s maximizing his value.”

Quarterback Hendon Hooker

On what the Pro Day process has been like for him…
“It’s been great just to be able to sit down and watch ball, showcase some of my things on the cerebral side of the game and just learn from them. They answer all of my questions, and I’m just having a great time.”

On if he gets excited displaying his football knowledge on the whiteboard…
“Honestly, I feel like that’s the bottom line of being a big-time quarterback, being a quarterback in general or a big-time ballplayer. Being able to showcase what you know on the board should come naturally because that’s what you do. This is what we do on a daily basis. I’ve said many times this whole draft-prep season that I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror drawing. Any time I walk past a mirror and there’s an Expo marker, I’m going to draw on the mirror. That’s just something I enjoy doing because I love the game of football.”

On what he has heard from NFL teams about Tennessee’s offense that translates to the NFL…
“The biggest thing is talking about protections, talking about what I do at the line of scrimmage and how much control I have. When I explain what my process is and the different things I do at the line of scrimmage to take control of the offense and making sure that we’re getting what we need to get out of the play, that has been cool. Now we get to see the backstory on why we’re doing things and how it’s being done, to get the success that we’re getting.”

Edge Rusher Byron Young

On what he’s hearing from NFL scouts and teams…
“Just the type of guy and how versatile I am. They like the fact I can play three-down, and four-down front. That’s a good sign, so I can fit in more than one defense. That’s basically all I’m hearing, where they expect me to play and how they play me.”

On if he envisioned being in this position…
“I just went back home, went to my old jobs and my old junior college. I appreciated everyone that’s helped me along the way. I went back there (Georgia Military Academy) and spent time with the coaches and kids telling them my story. I told them even though it might feel like you’re not going anywhere, that’s just how it’s going to be. Even if no one is watching, put your head down and keep grinding. Going back to Dollar General and talking to them, and going back to all my old jobs, it really means a lot. I’m so grateful. I’m never going to forget where I came from. I’m a humble guy and it’s amazing.”

On preparing for the NFL Combine…
“I put in a lot of effort. We worked out three times a day, Monday through Saturday, Saturday was twice a day. I put in a lot of time and effort. I changed my diet and the way I sleep–waking up early. I was really dedicated and committed to something I want. So when that happened, I wasn’t surprised, I was thankful I kept on going and didn’t give up.”

Wide Receiver Jalin Hyatt

On the feedback he’s heard from NFL teams and scouts..
“A lot of the feedback I’ve heard has been good. I’ve got my top-30 visits coming up so I’m going to be everywhere. I’ve definitely been hearing good feedback. I’m excited about the process and what’s next. We’ll see what happens in the future.”

On how comfortable he’s been interviewing with NFL teams…
“I’ve talked to maybe 15 to 20 teams. All of their coaches and GM’s are in there and they’re asking everything about you—what type of player you are, what you do this or that, but I felt like I did pretty good. I can talk about football 24/7 based off of Coach Heupel and Coach Pope based on what they taught me in this offense. It’s easy, this interview process, especially being around guys like (Hendon) Hooker.”

On if he was asked about the Alabama game…
“Most of the meetings I’ve been too, we’ve definitely brought up the Bama film. They love talking about it, but I think the reason they bring it up is because of what we did. How we game plan, what we did, what type of plays we ran on them and what we hit them with. They were very impressed. My film speaks for itself but at the same time, there were some “my-bad” plays and that’s just how it is. They want to see how you react when things don’t go your way. The interview process has been smooth so far.”

-UT Athletics

LB-DE Byron Young / Credit: UT Athletics

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