He’s on the 2022 preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award, the Fred Biletnikoff Award and the Walter Camp Award. By that estimation, Tennessee football wide receiver Cedric Tillman doesn’t seem that underrated at all heading into the year.
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However, Matt Howe of 247SportsHe was voted one of the top 11 offensive players and the 18 most underrated overall players for the year. When you take a look at his standard, not only does he have a point, but his point isn’t even hammered home strongly enough.
Howe says that Tillman is receiving respect from awards but that many preseason outlets overlook Tillman when it come to honors like All-Conference, All-American. Here’s what he said about Tennessee football’s go-to wideout.
Tillman came out of virtually nowhere to catch 64 passes for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns, benefitting from new coach Josh Heupel’s explosive offensive system. He is the SEC’s top returning receiver in terms of production, yet can barely scratch honorable mention on most preseason All-American teams. Hendon hooker, the SEC’s star quarterback, has no reason for him to not improve. It will be difficult to ignore him.
There’s obviously a lot of truth to that. In fact, in an even more official way, Tillman isn’t getting the respect from the media that cover him. We were shocked that he was named Second Team All SEC in the official media preseason picks.
As Howe noted, Tillman is the top producer among all returning receivers in the SEC, and he’s also likely to see more targets this year with Velus Jones Jr. and JaVonta Payton gone. Add in Hendon Hooker returning, and it’s hard to not make him first team.
There is also the argument that Jones or Payton may not be there to relieve him of the pressure. You could also be concerned about UT losing Kodi Blooms as wide receivers coach, and replacing him with a new coach in Kelsey Pope. These are minor issues to discuss when discussing Tillman.
On the other side, neither of these factors would be able to justify an expected huge drop in production. We’re talking about the first 1,000-yard receiver to return to Rocky Top since Kelley Washington in 2002, and Washington got hurt that following year.
Unless the projection is that Tillman would get hurt, and there’s no reason to assume that, Tennessee football should have the best target in the SEC and one of the best in the nation. This explains why Tillman, despite being on these watchlists, is still severely underrated.