Fan apathy is a terrible problem for UT athletics director Danny White. It might not be as bad a problem for coach Josh Heupel. For White, the challenge of getting fans to support Tennessee’s broken football program might be a near impossible task in the short term. If Heupel can put the Vols back together, White’s problem will be solved.
Until then, a little less scrutiny from fans could be a blessing for Heupel.
If fans lower their expectations and Heupel is able to go about his business with less demand for immediate success, then perhaps he won’t crack under the pressure the way, so many of his predecessors did. Eventually, of course, the wins will have to come. But in the short term, he may benefit from a fan base that no longer truly expects to win the big games. As long as he doesn’t have a Georgia State level disaster, his honeymoon period may very well extend into 2022, especially if UT ends up saddled with NCAA sanctions that rise above a slap on the wrist.
In the meantime, I would suggest finding a quarterback. UT hasn’t had a competent QB since Josh Dobbs left campus after the 2016 season. Fans will fixate on Joe Milton’s inability to complete the spectacular pass. But the bottom line is Tennessee beats Pittsburgh if they get a game manager performance from that position.
Can Hendon Hooker become that kind of QB if he’s named the starter and gets all the first team practice reps? Should Harrison Bailey get a shot?
The answer to both questions is…probably.
The good news for Heupel is that it appears fans are going to give him some space while he figures it out. Who says apathy doesn’t have its benefits?
Sam Pittman is giving off major Dabo Swinney vibes at Arkansas. Not saying he’s going to win a couple of nattys with the Hogs. But he has Dabo’s formula down. Hire good coordinators and let them, coach. Be a charismatic leader and recruit. Make it fun for the fans. Lots of coaches could learn a few lessons by studying his rebuild to this point.