It’s safe to say that expectations are through the roof for Tennessee football wide receiver Jalin Hyatt this year as he enters his sophomore season. A week after making Athlon’s All-SEC breakout team, which we wrote about here, there is now a measure of how much he’s expected to breakout relative to other receivers.
In a list of the top 25 breakout receivers for 2021 by Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports, who also put together that All-SEC breakout team last year, Hyatt came in at No. 5. Only one SEC receiver, Kayshon Boutte of the LSU Tigers at No. 2, finished ahead of him.
Other players who finished ahead of Hyatt were the Quentin Johnson of the TCU Horned Frogs, Marvin Mims of the Oklahoma Sooners and Drake London of the USC Trojans at No. 4, 3 and 1 respectively. Here’s what Lassan wrote about the 6’0″ 175-pound Tennessee football sophomore.
"As evidenced by UCF’s 21 completions of 40-plus yards last year, new Tennessee coach Josh Heupel likes to push the ball downfield. The change in scheme and outlook for the Volunteers’ offense should benefit a handful of players in Knoxville, with Hyatt likely one of the biggest benefactors. The South Carolina native wasn’t afforded many opportunities last fall but still posted a strong freshman season (20 catches for 276 yards and two scores). In an offense suited for his skill set, look for Hyatt to deliver a breakout season and a push for All-SEC honors should be within reach."
Last year, Hyatt finished third on the team in receiving behind Josh Palmer and Velus Jones Jr., showing plenty of promise as a true freshman. With Palmer gone, his role was expected to increase no matter what.
However, there are other factors contributing to him potentially becoming a breakout player. Another year of experience is an obvious one. Also, the two closest players behind him last year in receiving, Brandon Johnson and Eric Gray, have transferred elsewhere. Even the next player on the list, Ty Chandler, has transferred.
As a result, Hyatt’s role is expected to increase even more than it naturally would have. Combine that with the fact that Josh Heupel’s offense is expected to rely on lots of receivers making big plays, and it’s easy to see why he’s expected to have a breakout year.
Of course, Jones is still expected to be the top receiver, and Hyatt has some competition with guys like Cedric Tillman, JaVonta Payton and lots of rising young stars. However, his production for Tennessee football last year has dramatically increased expectations for him this year, and Lassan is driving that bandwagon early.