Randy Smith: Heupel Doing Things The Right Way

  • Tuesday, January 24, 2023
  • Randy Smith
It was just a typical Monday at several area schools this week....that is until Tennessee head football coach Josh Heupel made an appearance. I'm not sure how many stops Heupel made on his whirlwind tour, but I know he was at Boyd Buchanan as well as Baylor, McCallie, Brainerd and Chattanooga Christian. He may have been here recruiting, however it was more than just that, It was building relationships and that's something high school coaches in Tennessee are certainly not used to.

There was a lot of speculation and criticism when Heupel was hired at Tennessee.
He had a great record at Central Florida in three seasons, but those fickle Tennessee fans were very apprehensive about hiring a coach from a school like Central Florida. They became even more skeptical when U.T. Athletic Director Danny White, who was also at UCF before taking the Tennessee job, strongly recommended Heupel for the job and eventually hired him. Of course, those are the same fans that clamored for Tennessee to hire Jon Gruden on multiple occasions.

I was personally neutral on the Heupel hire and maybe it was more of a once bitten, twice shy situation. I was skeptical of who the Vols would hire because their track record over the past several years included Jeremy Pruitt, Butch Jones and Derek Dooley and that's not exactly a record of success. Still, there was something about Josh Heupel I liked, but I really couldn't tell you exactly what it was....until I ran into a gentleman in Florida during a vacation stop in 2021. That gentleman who shall remain nameless, was on the athletics board at Central Florida and had also served on the board at Tennessee as well. We were eating at a restaurant in Ponce Inlet Florida when the man approached our table after seeing my grandsons wearing all sorts of Tennessee gear.

We started a conversation and almost immediately Josh Heupel's name came up. The man told me to let everyone know back home they should have no worries about Coach Heupel. He was a first class coach and person as well. To me, that was the strongest affirmation that Josh Heupel was the man for the job. He put together a record of 28-8 at UCF and has a mark of 18-8 at Tennessee. That's an overall record of 46-16, which is the eighth best record in the nation since 2018. Now there is nothing negative about Heupel at all. He's the darling among SEC coaches after only two seasons and you can look for the Volunteers to be a legitimate top ten choice in the polls when they come out in a few months.

On Monday, Heupel not only met with coaches, he also met with school administrators as well. It's all about building relationships and Josh Heupel is most definitely doing it the right way.

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com

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