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Tennessee names Heupel as 27th football head coach

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
All of the armchair athletic directors who had names such as Lane Kiffen, Tony Elliott, James Franklin, and Hugh Freeze being tabbed to take over the University of Tennessee’s head football coaching position can now sit back and take a breath.

The reason for that is on Wednesday afternoon during a called press conference UT Athletic Director Randy White named Josh Heupel as the university’s 27th head football coach replacing former head coach Jeremy Pruitt who was fired with cause.

Heupel was the former head coach at the University of Central Florida where White was the former athletic director.

White said that he had spoken with the team on Wednesday morning about the new head coach.

“I had a great meeting with the team this morning,” said White. “I can tell you that they’re excited.

“Our football student-athletes were phenomenal, they were really, really great. We have a special group. I want to thank the leadership committee I met with this past weekend. The insight they gave me as to what’s happening inside our football program was absolutely instrumental to help me identify the right leader that we have here in Josh Heupel of our football program moving forward.”

White took a moment just to talk about some of Heupel’s highlights while a head coach at UCF.

“UCF, in the last three years, is the only team in the country to rank among the top-five in total offense for every single year the last three seasons,” White said.

“They were the only team in the country to average at least 522 yards of total offense in each of the last three seasons. UCF and Alabama are the only two teams to rank among the top-eight in the country in passing in each of the last two seasons.

“Along with Alabama and USC, the only three teams in the country to average 316 passing yards in the last two seasons. They join Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma as the only four teams in the country to rank among the top-eight in scoring in the last three seasons,” White continued.

“And finally, they join Alabama and Clemson as the only teams in the country to average 42 points per game in each of the last three seasons.”

Offense is something that White said Tennessee fans have been talking about and he felt that Heupel was the right coach to bring that to the University.

After Heupel was introduced, the new coach was excited for the new opportunity of being the head coach at the University of Tennessee.

“What an awesome day for myself and our family,” Heupel said. “We are so appreciative of the warm welcome we’ve received. I’m just excited to be a part of the Vol Nation and the Vol family.

“I want to thank Chancellor (Donde) Plowman and President (Randy) Boyd for your vision of what you want and foresee in athletics – the importance it has on a college campus and entrusting us to mentoring and teaching these young men the game of life, not just the game of football.”

Heupel played his football at the University of Oklahoma where he played on a national championship team in 2000 where he lead the Sooners to a victory over Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl to seal the title for the Sooners.

He was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2000 and was named the Associated Press Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award winner, Archie Griffin Award winner, and a consensus All-American in 2001.

In his last two seasons at Oklahoma, Heupel posted a 20-5 record where he passed for 7,456 yards and 53 touchdowns. Overall, he ranks among OU’s top three quarterbacks in passing yards, despite playing just two seasons.

As a coach, Heupel is credited with developing Heisman Trophy winners Sam Bradford and Jason White at Oklahoma as well as turning the career of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock where under Heupel’s leadership Lock led the SEC in passing as a sophomore throwing for 3,399 yards and 23 touchdowns and followed that up with a stronger junior season accounting for 3,964 yards and a then-SEC record 44 touchdown passes.

In taking over at Tennessee, Heupel shared some of his offensive and defensive philosophy as a head coach.

“We’re going to play with tempo,” Heupel stated. “We’re going to be the aggressor. We’re going to play with our skill players in space. We’re going to give them an opportunity to push the ball down the field.

“At the same time, if you watch what we do, we’re extremely balanced in our approach in terms of run and pass. We want to be physical and dominate the line of scrimmage. Those are all things that are going to translate to what we’re doing here in Knoxville.

“At the same time, that aggressive mentality that we have on the offensive side of the football is going to translate to the defensive side of the football,” Heupel continued. “We’ll be multiple in our fronts. We’re going to have three- and four-man fronts, and we’re going to bring pressure.

“We want to create negative plays. In college football, it’s about creating big plays on offense and negative plays on defense and getting people off schedule. If you put those things together, you have a chance to have a really successful game plan and ultimately a successful season. I’m excited about embarking down that road as we get together as a football program after this.”

The search for a new head coach has been met with much negativity from Vol Nation especially with all the bad experiences over the years with former head coaches Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, and Pruitt.

However, White urged Vol Nation to stop the negativity and embrace the new direction the program will be taking with the hiring of Heupel.

“Some of you are awesome. Some of you are failing right now. Why would we be negative? The future of this place is unbelievably exciting and positive, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here and I see nothing but great days ahead,” White said.

“I know that our fans are extremely passionate, and I love that. I can’t wait to know many of them and work with them. I can’t get to know them all because there are so many of them, but the idea of turning your passion and something you love into negativity, I don’t understand that.

“I think that this athletics department has been through some challenges, and again, we have really great days ahead. I think people will see that and start having some more fun with their Vol fandom.”

Heupel at a glance

PERSONAL INFORMATION
Full Name: Joshua Kenneth Heupel
Birthdate: March 22, 1978
Hometown: Aberdeen, S.D.
Education: Oklahoma, 2001
Wife: Dawn
Children: Hannah and Jace

EXPERIENCE
1997-2000: Oklahoma, Football Student-Athlete
2004: Oklahoma, Graduate Assistant
2005: Arizona, Tight Ends Coach
2006-10: Oklahoma, Quarterbacks Coach
2011-14: Oklahoma, Co-Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach
2015: Utah State, Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach
2016-17: Missouri, Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach
2018-20: UCF, Head Coach
2021-: Tennessee, Head Coach