Tennessee Football: Playing devil’s advocate with Josh Heupel

Josh Heupel has been named Tennessee Football’s next head coach, and he’s brought some division to the fan base, so I’m going to play devil’s advocate.

Tennessee Football has a new head coach by the name of Josh Heupel. This has brought some division among the fan base, so I want to share a little background on Heupel and play devil’s advocate for the fans that like the hire and for the fans that don’t.

Heupel began his career in college football as a quarterback at Oklahoma. During his time running the Sooners’ offense, Heupel was a consensus All-American, won numerous awards, and led the Sooners to a BCS National Championship during the 2000 season.

After not making it in the NFL, Heupel returned to Oklahoma to be the Sooners’ co-offensive coordinator until he was fired after the 2014 season. Heupel then moved to Utah State, where he became the assistant head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach for the Aggies.

After one season in that position, former Missouri head coach Barry Odom hired him to be the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. One season of leading an SEC offense as the OC, UCF called Heupel and made him their next head coach.

Heupel led the UCF Knights to three winning seasons in his three seasons there before taking the Tennessee head coach job. Heupel has quickly moved up the ranks since being fired from Oklahoma. Sometimes that’s what a coach needs, and he can thank Barry Odom for the opportunities he’s been given post-Missouri, even after seeing a decline in UCF in his three years.

The 2020 season was a difficult year for everyone, but one UCF fan pointed out the Knights’ decline while Heupel was their head coach over the past three seasons. Heupel started his coaching career at UCF with a 12-1 record in 2018, 10-3 record in 2019, and a 6-4 record in 2020.

Playing devil’s advocate, UCF’s four losses came at a total of 17 points for the entire season, and if UCF would’ve played a full 12-game season instead of a nine-game regular season, they might’ve won their two non-conference games and finished 8-4 and who knows what happens in a bowl game if they get a different opponent.

I don’t think UCF was a bad team in 2020, but they weren’t their best. A lot, if not all, of UCF’s national championship credit, can go to Scott Frost, and Heupel has done a decent job at keeping the Knights around the top of the American Conference.

Of UCF’s eight wins, they also beat seven teams that finished the season with a losing record and one win against a team that finished 6-6. The three regular-season losses for UCF came against the three teams that finished ahead of them in the American Conference, Tulsa, Cincinnati, and Memphis. UCF also lost in a 49-23 blowout against BYU in their bowl game.

Danny White joined the Vols as the athletic director after being one of the best AD’s in the country at UCF, so in the grand scheme of things, you can’t be too surprised he called on his guy Heupel from UCF to join him in Knoxville.

The only issue I see with that is the possibility of another long leash for a coach. I’m fine with long leashes for coaches, but if a coach doesn’t have it, then he doesn’t have it. I hope Heupel can get the job done in Tennessee, but if he can’t, I hope White can realize that.

I’m excited to see what Heupel can do on Rocky Top. He’s unproven, but he has head coaching experience at a level just under Tennessee and the SEC, so if he can bring his offensive firepower and let Kevin Steele do his thing on defense, some fans might be a bit surprised this fall.