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Tennessee reportedly finalizing deal for new head football coach

Tennessee is reportedly finalizing a deal to make Central Florida’s Josh Heupel the next head football coach of the Vols, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. A deal is officially expected to be announced on Wednesday.

“Other names that were associated with Tennessee’s search included Penn State’s James Franklin, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Buffalo’s Lance Leipold,” Thamel wrote. “Heupel is expected to make in the neighborhood of $4 million annually, which will leave him an ample salary pool for a big-name defensive coordinator and a staff that can recruit the SEC footprint.”

Austin Price of VolQuest also reported the news, saying that a team meeting had been scheduled for 8 a.m. ET for new Tennessee athletic director Danny White to inform the team of the hire.

Heupel was 28-8 in three seasons as UCF’s head coach. He went 12-1 in the first season after Frost left in 2018, guiding the Knights to a Fiesta Bowl appearance against LSU. Heupel followed his debut in Orlando up by going 10-3 in year two, ending 2019 with a bowl game win. This past season, UCF went 6-4 and lost in the Boca Raton Bowl to end the year.

The 42-year old was a star quarterback at Oklahoma, where he led the Sooners to a National Championship after transferring from Weber State. Heupel was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2000. He was also an All-American, the AP Player of the Year, and a Walter Camp Award winner. Heupel led the Sooners to an undefeated season and a national championship with a victory over Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl.

Heupel was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL Draft but retired after dealing with shoulder tendinitis in his throwing arm. He returned to Oklahoma following his playing career, where he served as a graduate assistant under Bob Stoops. Heupel was an assistant under Stoops at Oklahoma from 2006-2014 after serving as Arizona’s tight ends coach in 2005.

Following his time as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, where he was fired after the 2014 season, Heupel made his way to Utah State, where he served as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the 2015 season. He then made his way to Missouri to serve under Barry Odom as offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017, which got him the job at UCF.

White was hired by Tennessee last Thursday after Phillip Fulmer retired in the wake of Jeremy Pruitt being fired for cause under his watch.

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