It has been ten days since the University of Tennessee leadership announced they were firing former football head coach, Jeremy Pruitt. It only took nine days to replace him. Josh Heupel was named the 27th head coach of the Volunteers football program Wednesday morning.
Athletic director Danny White hired a familiar face in Heupel. The two re-join forces in Knoxville after working together for three years at UCF.
White called the coaching search, “exhaustive” and mentioned that, “no stone was left unturned.” It isn’t likely that Heupel was necessarily the first candidate Danny White called.
However, White believes the coach he hired is the right guy for the job, “We looked at a number of candidates, Josh Heupel is everything we were looking for: integrity, a history of championships, and the architect of explosive offenses,” said White.
Unlike the hiring of Danny White, the announcement yesterday of Josh Heupel as the new head coach has mixed reviews. Heupel becomes the 5th head coach since 2009. “I believe in a very, very bright future at Tennessee,” says Heupel.
This isn’t Tennessee fans’ first rodeo. Former head coaches, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, and Jeremy Pruitt all had similar statements in their opening press conferences.
Many Tennessee fans were hoping for a new coach with a big name, someone flashy, someone who has won actual championships.
Isn’t it head-scratching that Danny White flew around the country for days just to end up hiring his good friend who he has known and worked with for three years?
Not to mention, Tennessee hired a search firm to help White hire someone who he was already confident in.
Heupel’s tenure at UCF was from 2018-2020. His records there were 12-1, 10-3, and 6-4, respectively. As I look at those records, there’s a trend of more losses per year.
While Josh Heupel is most known for his prolific offensive mind, his defenses have severely struggled. UCF defensive rankings the past three seasons: 36th, 42nd, and 92nd.
Josh Heupel isn’t an elite recruiter. He has never had a recruiting class rank higher than 61st in the country and has never signed a 4 nor 5-star recruit.
Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look at Josh Heupel’s resume. As offensive coordinator at Missouri, his offense excelled.
Missouri was 48th in the country in 2016, the year before Heupel got to campus. In 2017, Heupel’s offense ranked 14th scoring 37.5 points per game.
I think we can all agree that hearing Rocky Top in Neyland Stadium twenty times as we march up and down the field, all Saturday long will be pretty dang fun.
As I mentioned earlier, the defenses under Heupel have struggled. However, he wins games. In his worst season at UCF, his team went 6-4.
Heupel had 10 players opt-out of the 2020 season for COVID/health reasons. Besides, the 4 losses came at the hands of some pretty talented teams. 24th ranked Tulsa, a 1-point loss to Memphis, a 3-point loss to 8th ranked Cincinnati and a loss to BYU in the Boca Raton Bowl.
With an overall record of 28-8, one could argue that Heupel is Tennessee’s best hire since Phillip Fulmer.
Recruiting at Central Florida is much more difficult than recruiting at Tennessee. Also, Tennessee has plenty of talent on the roster that will fit exceptionally well in Heupel’s offense. Freshman quarterback Kaidon Salter, Virginia Tech transfer quarterback Hendon Hooker, and speedster wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Velus Jones Jr. bring an abundance of speed and explosiveness.
Vol Nation is hesitant to have faith in Josh Heupel to succeed. But, let’s give him a chance. He deserves it. After all, he believes in Tennessee, “All the elements to win are already here. You walk out in that stadium and there are 100,000 plus fans in there. Our facilities are as good as there are in the entire country. Now, it’s about putting the right people in the right place so that we can have sustainable success here.”
There is a list of unknowns and uncertainties. However, it’s unfair to quit on this guy before he’s given a chance.
After the dust settles, we will find out if we have the right people in the right place.