For the 1st time since 2007, the Tennessee Volunteers have won 10 games in a season. Their 56-0 victory over Vanderbilt was total domination, even without the services of QB Hendon Hooker.

The Vols will get a shot at No. 11 in a few weeks. But before we look forward to the postseason, let’s check out 10 highlights from the Vols’ best regular season since 2003.

1. Hooker is a Tennessee legend

You can put Hooker’s name on the short list of the greatest Tennessee QBs of all time. In 24 games, Hooker threw for 6,080 yards and 58 TDs while tossing only 5 INTs. He also ran for 1,046 yards and 10 scores.

He went 15-7 as a starter and led the Vols to the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.

There’s no way the Vols win as much as they have the past 2 years without Hooker.

2. Jalin Hyatt is a star

Hyatt caught a total of 41 passes in his 1st 2 seasons in Knoxville. It was tough for him to get passes thrown his way with Velus Jones Jr. and Cedric Tillman in the lineup.

Hyatt was already off to a solid start when Tillman was injured in the Akron game in Week 3. But he took things to a whole new level when he became the Vols’ No. 1 option in the passing game. Hyatt has 67 catches for 1,267 yards and 15 scores in 2022.

He also rewrote the Vols’ record book with 5 TD receptions in the Alabama game.

3. Offensive line shines

The men up front on offense are a mostly anonymous unit, only noticed when things go wrong. Well, the offensive line didn’t slow the Vols down very much. This was a veteran group — led by Darnell Wright, Jerome Carvin and Cooper Mays — that protected Hooker while keeping what can be a challenging offensive system in motion.

Tennessee had the top-ranked offense in all of college football this season. That offensive line deserves its share of credit.

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4. Rivals vanquished

Tennessee had beaten Florida only once since 2004 and lost 15 in a row to Alabama and 5 straight to LSU. All those streaks were snapped this season.

Far too often under Derek Dooley, Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt, the Vols failed to show up when the games meant the most. Josh Heupel’s teams didn’t shy away from those moments.

Now it will have to work on snapping Georgia’s 6-game win streak over UT.

5. Alabama win will resonate for years

The sellout crowd. The noise. The goal post destruction. The cigar smoke.

No one that experienced the Tennessee-Alabama game will ever forget it. The Vols’ 52-49 victory will be remembered as one of the greatest games in college football history.

6. The Neyland Stadium effect

A little more about the house that General Neyland built. The Vols’ home got a facelift during the offseason, with improvements to the west lower club, a new party deck in the upper deck of the north end zone and the return of the iconic V O L S letters to the top of the south end zone.

Tennessee fans showed up in droves this season with multiple sellouts, which is no small feat when your building holds 101,915.

The Vols went a perfect 7-0 at Neyland Stadium and have now won 9 in a row in that building.

7. What might have been

First things first. Barring absolute anarchy next weekend, the Vols won’t make the College Football Playoff.

Tennessee is certainly ahead of schedule under Heupel. Absolutely no one thought that the Vols would be in the Playoff mix in Year 2.

UT is back in the national conversation and should stay there under Heupel. You’d think that it will have more chances at a national title in the years to come, especially when the Playoff expands.

But there’s no guarantee that it happens. The Vols haven’t won the national championship or the SEC since 1998. You’d like to take advantage of the opportunities when in front of you.

8. Defensive struggles

Under Heupel, Tennessee’s defense doesn’t have to be a top-20 group to win games. But defensive coordinator Tim Banks hasn’t been able to get his players anywhere near even the top 75. The Vols were ranked 100th in yards allowed before facing Vanderbilt.

Some decisions will need to be made this offseason by Heupel when it comes to the future of the defense.

9. Winning masks mistakes

Despite all its success, this was an undisciplined Tennessee football team. It entered the last game of the regular season ranked 125th with 8.27 penalties per game.

In the loss to South Carolina, defensive back Kamal Hadden and others spent far too much energy jawing with their opponents despite getting torched repeatedly.

Even the most talented football teams will struggle to win with so many physical errors and errors in judgment.

10. Recruiting momentum

The Vols are currently ranked 11th nationally in the latest 247 rankings for the Class of 2023. Heupel’s offensive system is appealing to a lot of athletes, including Tennessee’s QB of the future, 5-star Nicholaus Iamaleava.

But the Vols have got to find playmakers on defense. Heupel and his staff will hope to close strong with the early signing period only 3 weeks away.