Tennessee players Purdue football fans should know heading into the Music City Bowl

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The Purdue Boilermakers are set to play the Tennessee Volunteers in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, 2021.

Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) won three of its last four regular-season games and finished third in the seven-team SEC East behind Georgia and Kentucky.

The Volunteers have bounced back from a 3-7 2020 season under first-year coach Josh Heupel.

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Tennessee's wins and losses

Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel disputes a call during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.b
Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel disputes a call during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.b

There aren't many surprises for the Volunteers.

They defeated Bowling Green, Tennessee Tech, Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky, South Alabama and Vanderbilt. The victory over Kentucky is an upset.

UT lost to Pitt, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia. Four of those teams are among the top 12 in the USA TODAY rankings heading into bowl season and Florida is 6-6.

Hendon Hooker is Tennessee's quarterback

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws a pass during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws a pass during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Hendon Hooker is a senior in his first season with the Volunteers. He played the three previous seasons at Virginia Tech.

Hooker's key numbers: 69% accuracy, 2,567 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, a league-low 3 interceptions, but a league-leading 34 sacks. He had season highs of 316 passing yards and 4 touchdowns against Kentucky.

Tennessee's other offensive weapons

Nov 27, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. (1) runs the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half at Neyland Stadium.
Nov 27, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. (1) runs the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half at Neyland Stadium.

Jabari Small is the leading rushing with 612 yards and 8 TDs. He closed the season with 103 yards and 2 TDs against Vanderbilt.

Cedric Tillman leads the receiving corps with 57 catches for 931 yards and 9 touchdowns. He had 10 catches for 200 yards against Georgia. His father, also Cedric Tillman, played in the NFL.

Velus Jones Jr. is a super senior (4 years at USC, 2 at Tennessee) and an all-around threat. He has 52 catches for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns. Jones had 3 100+-yard receiving games. He's an All-SEC kick returner, averaging 16 yards per punt return and 28 yards per kickoff return, with 1 touchdown.

Tennessee's defensive stars

Tennessee defensive back Theo Jackson (26) runs the ball for a touchdown after an interception during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Tennessee defensive back Theo Jackson (26) runs the ball for a touchdown after an interception during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Jaylen McCollough 3 interceptions, 4 passes defended and 1 forced fumble.

Jeremy Banks 108 tackles (9 for loss, 4.5 sacks) and 1 interception. Banks had at least 12 tackles in 5 of the Vols' last 6 games.

Theo Jackson 11 passes defended, 73 tackles and 9 tackles for loss. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Vanderbilt.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Music City Bowl 2021: Tennessee players to watch vs. Purdue football

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